UK police misuse pre-charge bail to ban activists from protesting
RT.com | December 25, 2014
UK police forces are misusing pre-charge bail by banning hundreds of protesters from attending lawful demonstrations, The Guardian newspaper has revealed. Of all bailed protesters, eighty-five percent are never charged with any crime.
Since 2008 police have arrested at least 855 people in England and Wales and then released them on pre-charge bail, setting a date to return to the police station. Until their return, those bailed were prohibited from attending any demonstration. However, 85 percent, or about 732 people, have never been charged, according to data the Guardian collected using the Freedom of Information Act.
Of the 500 arrests by the Metropolitan Police since 2008, only 15 people have been charged. In the same way the City of London, Essex and Sussex police banned 120 people. On average only one in seven has been charged.
Citing “additional research”, The Guardian assumed the actual number of bans imposed could be far greater as some of the bail conditions given by custody sergeants were not picked up by the scope of the newspaper’s information requests.
In the UK, no court permission is required for a custody sergeant to hand out a protest ban. Should a protester violate this restriction, an arrest for breach of bail could follow. However, people on pre-charge bail can appeal to a magistrate.
“Bail is becoming an instrument that is being used by people without recourse to the judicial process. It is essentially to punish protesters and curb their right to demonstrate,” Rachel Harger of leading human rights law firm Bindmans told the newspaper. “It is effectively the police conducting their own extra-judicial justice without going to court.”