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Archive - Monday, 13 March 2006
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Weapons demo case collapses
Peace activists campaigning against an arms factory were celebrating after another case against them collapsed.
The Crown Prosecution Service has announced it is dropping charges against eight people who took part in a Smash EDO demonstration outside the EDO MBM weapons factory in Home Farm Road, Brighton, on May 31 last year.
Solicitors representing the protesters said it was further evidence that police were working in collaboration with EDO MBM to try to get an injunction banning protests outside the factory and did not want that information in the public domain.
Three of the charges were for assaulting a police officer, an imprisonable offence, and others were for resisting arrest and obstructing public highways.
The case was due to come before Brighton magistrates next month but the Crown Prosecution Service said it no longer felt it necessary to prosecute since EDO MBM's case for an injunction, which the factory had been pursuing since last May, had been dropped.
Last month a case against three protesters charged with public order offences last March collapsed after a judge ordered prosecutors to disclose details about police tactics on the day of the demonstration.
Lydia Dagostino, of Kelly's solicitors in Marlborough Place, Brighton, which represents the activists, said: "What the CPS is saying to us just doesn't make sense.
"Charges of assaulting a police officer are extremely serious and have nothing to do with the injunction.
"We strongly suspect that the reason the CPS has dropped the case is because they didn't want to disclose material regarding the nature of the relationship between Sussex Police and EDO.
"We suspect that the police wanted an injunction and were helping EDO's case for one.
"Questions need to be answered."
Smash EDO spokesman Andrew Beckett said "We always maintained that the police's actions last May were violent and undemocratic.
"Their willingness to drop such serious charges after a year raises serious questions about what evidence the police are so worried about being heard in open court.
"Were arrests of prominent activists named on the injunction made to order to bolster EDO MBM's attempt to create an exclusion zone around the factory in the civil courts?
"Out of more than 30 arrests of activists, 22 cases have resulted in failed prosecutions.
"This is unparalleled in my experience of protesting."
Chris Osmond, charged with assaulting a police officer, said:
"We've had this hanging over our heads for over a year now. "The fact that all the charges have been dropped suggests that the police always knew that they had a very weak case.
"If it hadn't been for the amazing work of our legal team some of us would have been imprisoned "
The prosecution team responsible in the case was unavailable for comment.