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Women campaigners to challenge police abuse of power

CHANGE OF VENUE TO READING MAGISTRATES

Four women from Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) will be attending Reading Magistrates Court on Wednesday 28 April 2008 to challenge bail conditions which have limited their freedom of movement and freedom to protest since 15 February 2010. They were originally arrested for a simple obstruction of the highway following a day of action at AWE Aldermaston – Britain's Trident nuclear bomb factory – but were not charged. However, despite none of the women being charged with any offence, all four have identical police-imposed bail conditions which are aimed at preventing them entering any Ministry of Defence land, travelling on the public highway and other public areas around AWE Aldermaston and its brother site at Burghfield. This prevents the four attending the monthly peace camp and any other events at the site. They are bailed to return to Newbury police station on 18 May 2010. Following an application to the police themselves earlier in April – requesting variance of, what they consider, unreasonable and punitive conditions – the police sergeant responsible for hearing the application washed his hands of it, stating “I have taken advice from a number of internal sources in coming to my decision which has been to clarify the MOD property definition. I recognise that you will be disappointed with the limited nature of the alteration.” Two months after the alleged offence, the CPS remarked that they were “not aware that the case has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service at this stage.” An earlier request to the CPS for information relating to this case was met with “I am afraid that the CPS cannot comment in respect of pending cases” by the District Crown Prosecutor. In response to this bureaucratic brick wall and the suspicion that this is simply a method of stringing out the process while keeping the women away from the peace camp, the four have applied directly to the court to hear their case for bail variance – this will be heard on 28 April at 10am, Reading Magistrate's Court. This latest attempt at stifling protest outside AWE Aldermaston has to be viewed in the context of previous Ministry of Defence attempts to get rid of the peace camp. The last of which resulted in AWPC taking the MoD to court and winning a judicial review which quashed two MoD byelaws - one of which had explicitly banned camping from outside AWE Aldermaston. The Court of Appeal determined that the MoD's shoulders should be “broad enough to cope” with the camp. Commenting on the case, one of the arrestees said “The powers granted to the police to impose conditions - on people who have not even been charged with any offence - are open ended and open to abuse. Conditional police bail is a form of extra-judicial punishment - limiting people's rights to freedom of movement, association, and protest. Police bail with conditions is being imposed on people up and down the country and for extended periods of time, with those arrested often never even seeing a courtroom and, after months and months of living under restrictions, the process can just be quietly abandoned. The courts are the only way to challenge this.” The four are encouraging supporters to attend the court on Wednesday. Notes See http://aldermaston.net/news/274 for background about AWPC's judicial review of the Aldermaston Byelaws See http://blockawe.blogspot.com/ for background and reportage on the day of action on AWE Aldermaston on 15 February 2010