Monday, 13 April 2009

Churnalism and "Conspiracy to Trespass"

It is noticeable that, over twelve hours after the arrests in Nottingham, all of the reports in the press are based on a single Press Association report. It would appear that no media service has done any further research, with the exception of the Guardian, that appears to have contacted Jon Beresford, the chairman of Nottingham Against Incineration and Landfill, for his opinion. I believe this is practically the definition of Churnalism.

The next thing that needs analysis is the grounds for the arrests.
He said: "Just after midnight tonight, Nottinghamshire Police arrested 114 men and women from across the UK on suspicion of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage."
This is, of course from the PA report. I have done some research and cannot find anyone who has been convicted of "conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass" - in fact I can't even find a reference to any prosecution. If you know of any please add a comment to this posting.

UPDATE: an anonymous reader informs me there is no such offence, see the comment below - there are two separate offences, "conspiracy to commit trespass" and "aggravated trespass". More misinformation from the police?

Entertainingly, before the churnalism, the top links for "conspiracy to commit trespass" took you to British canoeists' websites...

So is this another expression of the police state? Well, it is another attempt from the police to strike pre-emptively at protesters. As pointed out on the Nottingham Indymedia site, it is similar in some ways to the M1 Conspiracy case, which collapsed last year.

  • Will any of these 114 potential protesters be charged and brought to court?
  • Will any be prosecuted successfully?
  • Will we ever know?
  • Or is this a new definition of a 'cockspiracy' - as a cocked-up attempt to convict someone of conspiracy?


  1. AFAIK there is no such offence. There are two separate offences:

    Conspiracy to Commit Trespass - despite common trespass being a civil offence the conspiracy charge is criminal.

    Aggravated Trespass - which is also a criminal charge.

    Also would like to know the source of the police information. Those pesky anti-terrorist powers that would definitely only be used to stop serious terrorists bent on damaging our democracy and would definitely never be used to clamp down on ordinary people activating their democratic right to peaceful protest.

    Shame on the media

  2. Don't believe all you read in the papers, or all you read on blogs!

    Although the charges are different this case may mirror a case against protesters arrested prior to protesting against M1 widening:

    Over a year after charges were filed, a crown court judge three the case out:

    Granting a defence application to dismiss the charge, HHJ Robinson found that in order to obtain a conviction the prosecution would have had to prove that the defendants had agreed to do something which would either endanger life or prevent the public from using the M1.

    IndyMedia reported that those arrested had property including computers and cellphones seized after arrest and that property was not returned until the charges were dismissed:

    Whatever has happened to the criminal justice system in the last 12 years?

  3. Thanks for the extra detail and links on the M1 case - it is refered to in the original posting.

    As for believing everything you read in blogs, well I wouldn't, but then my aim is to make people think, which is why I include links and welcome comments.

  4. "Conspiracy to Commit Trespass"

    This is nonsense, the relevant charge is Conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass, which is a combination of Section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (the statutory offence of conspiracy), and Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (the statutory offence of aggravated trespass.

    "1. The offence of conspiracy.— [(1) Subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Act, if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions, either—

    (a)will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement, or

    (b)would do so but for the existence of facts which render the commission of the offence or any of the offences impossible,

    he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question.]"

    "68. (1) A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land in the open air and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in on that or adjoining land in the open air, does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect—
    (a)of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity,
    (b)of obstructing that activity, or
    (c)of disrupting that activity.
    (2) Activity on any occasion on the part of a person or persons on land is “lawful” for the purposes of this section if he or they may engage in the activity on the land on that occasion without committing an offence or trespassing on the land.
    (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.
    (4) A constable in uniform who reasonably suspects that a person is committing an offence under this section may arrest him without a warrant.
    (5) In this section “land” does not include—
    (a)the highways and roads excluded from the application of section 61 by paragraph (b) of the definition of “land” in subsection (9) of that section; or
    (b)a road within the meaning of the M1 Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993."

  5. If you say so, IANAL, you may be... but seem to be anonymous.

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