Further to the surprise acquittal of the EDO smashers, the Brighton Argus reports:
“The Office for Judicial Complaints, which deals with objections over the conduct of judges and magistrates, confirmed that an inquiry into how Judge Bathurst-Norman handled the trial is under way.
The move follows a series of complaints from organisations including the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “The judge’s summing up seemed to be more of a character reference for the defendants and an account of the iniquities of Israel and America than a dispassionate appraisal of the evidence.
“Rather than test whether the defence of lawful excuse was available to the accused he appeared more intent on telling the jury why they would be morally wrong not to acquit them.”
You’d hardly think it was the same judge who served Paul Kelleher a 3 month custodial sentence for decapitating a statue of Margaret Thatcher. The jury in an earlier trial had been unable to decide whether he had lawful excuse for his action; Judge Bathurst-Norman ruled that he didn’t.
“I don’t doubt the sincerity of your beliefs,” he said. “Many people share them, particularly in relation to what is happening in Third World countries, and I would be the last person to deny any person the right to freedom of speech and the right to protest against matters which support his beliefs.
“But, when it comes to protest, there is a right way to protest and also a wrong way. The way people banded together last Saturday to demonstrate against the war in Iraq was the right and proper way to make their voices heard. The way you acted to knock the head off a valuable statue of a politician who left power over ten years ago and whose party is no longer the party of government, was very much the wrong way.”
On the other hand, in 2001, he handed down a “remarkably lenient” sentence to a procurement agent for the A. Q. Khan Network (smuggling ring which supports nuclear weapons programmes of Pakistan, North Korea and Iran). He got a fine and suspended sentence.
My guess is that to most people the EDO smashers look erratic and prejudiced, and their acquittal looks like erratic, prejudiced judiciary. But they were supported by Green leader and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, who tells SmashEDO that EDO is making bombs in Brighton, although EDO is not making bombs in Brighton. And if it were, providing it wasn’t in contravention of arms embargoes to the Middle East, it would be operating within the law.
The arms trade is a convoluted business, but EDO is operating within the law, isn’t it. And given that, if we’re against weapons, we need to use our opportunities and rights to try to change the laws about their manufacture, and not support the arbitrary smashings of vigilantes.