G8 case collapses two years on

by ALAN RODEN

Edinburgh Evening News, 16 May 2007

CHARGES against five protesters arrested during Edinburgh's G8 demonstrations have been thrown out of court after two years.

The prosecution case collapsed amid claims police failed to provide video footage said to have been taken at the protest in July 2005.

The five defendants today hit out at the cost to the public purse, which is likely to be tens of thousands of pounds.

The case against the four men and one woman was brought up in court on 12 separate occasions, but eventually dropped on Monday. Solidarity campaigners John Wight and Kevin Connor were arrested on July 6, 2005, with three others, following an impromptu march along Princes Street.

The demonstration started after buses due to take protestors to the official G8 demonstration in Auchterarder were blocked from leaving Waterloo Place.

The march reached Edinburgh's West End, but was turned back by police.

The protesters headed back towards The Mound, where four now-released coaches were leaving the city. However, because the buses were full, the marchers were not allowed to board.

Police decided to invite a delegation from the demonstration to inspect the coaches to prove they were full.

Mr Wight, who had organised the transport, and Scottish Socialist Party's Nick Eardley were the first to be selected.

Mr Connor and his girlfriend Vanesa Fuertes were also picked to accompany police officers.

The four said they were separated from the crowd and once hidden from view, were "pounced on and arrested".

They were charged with public order offences.

Raphie De Santos, an SSP member, was also arrested and faced the same charges of taking part in a public demonstration without having given notice and failing to desist when ordered to do so.

Mr Wight, 39, said: "The police stopped us from taking part in a legal demonstration in Gleneagles, so we had no alternative but to protest here in Edinburgh.

"I had been organising the buses from the start, so the police saw me as a leader. They wanted to take me out, so they used the excuse of the buses to get me away from the crowd."

Mr Connor, 37, a taxi driver from Meadowbank, said: "It was the first time I had been arrested, and we were really scared.

"We were shocked at having been arrested simply for doing something that the police had asked us to do."

He added: "What happened since has been a complete farce and absolutely shocking.

"Two years and 12 court appearances later, after spending many tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money, the case concocted against the five of us was dropped.

"The two-year delay resulted from the reluctance of the police to supply relevant video footage."

Cameron Tait, Mr Connor's defence lawyer, said today: "There was an ongoing difficulty obtaining video footage allegedly taken by police on the day.

"The Crown discontinued the case by not calling it in court on Monday, May 14."

Police declined to comment on the video footage.

A police spokeswoman said: "As a result of demonstrations that took place on July 6, 2005 in Princes Street a number of individuals were arrested and reported to the Procurator Fiscal in respect of public order offences.

"The cases were thereafter progressed by the Procurator Fiscal service, which has responsibility for decisions around the prosecution of criminal cases."