An anti-fracking campaigner heard today (30/1/14) that his human right to freedom of speech through protesting did not give him a right to wilfully obstruct the police.
Keyon Bayandor, 25, from Bristol, denied obstructing PC Michael Butler at the Balcombe protests on August 1st last year. But he was found guilty after a District Judge told him he had gone beyond the agreed level of protest.
District Judge William Ashworth, sitting at Brighton Magistrates Court, heard how a line of police officers was escorting a delivery lorry into Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site. One of the officers in the escort, PC Butler, said Mr Bayandor was shouting very loudly, using a megaphone and was intentionally blocking his path. PC Butler said he had to push Mr Bayandor out of the way several times and he alleged Mr Bayandor used his shoulder in an attempt to block the police line.
Another officer in the escort, PC Mark Cullen, said Mr Bayandor was very excitable. “I took the decision that he needed to be arrested.” Mr Bayandor was initially charged with an offence under Section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, a law designed to prevent secondary picketing. PC Cullen admitted under cross-examination: “I had not heard of it before this particular operation but my understanding of it was that it fits what was going on.” The charge was changed at a pre-trial review last October.
Stephen Knight, defending, argued that Mr Bayandor had not obstructed the officer. He said there was an agreement with the police that the demonstrators would try to delay deliveries to the site. This regularly resulted in some pushing and shoving, he said. The type of behaviour that Mr Bayandor used had been tolerated by the police. “It was not wilful when so many other people were not arrested for similar contact.”
Mr Knight said the prosecution was not proportionate or necessary because it did not prevent a crime or disorder. It was a breach of Mr Bayandor’s rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention of Human Rights, which provide a right to freedom of expression and to assembly.
But DJ Ashworth disagreed. He said Mr Bayandor’s Article 10 rights have been protected by the police decision to allow demonstrators to block the road and slow down the lorries.
The judge said Mr Bayandor’s actions amounted to obstruction and the prosecution was proportionate. “You became personally fixated with PC Butler”, he said. “You went well beyond the agreement on the level of the protest.”
Mr Bayandor was conditionally discharged for a year and ordered to pay a total of £300 in costs and victim surcharge.