We lock people up without trial for criticising their own government
Yesterday a friend of mine was held on remand, after being arrested and charged with road traffic offenses for performing a banner drop for the opening of the Liberal Democrat conference.
The banner, which read “Traitors not Welcome”, referred to the decision of many Liberal Democrat MPs, including all the leadership, to break their pledge to vote against the rise in tuition fees – a pledge which led many students – including my friends – to vote for the Liberal Democrats in the last election.
This action caused no damage and hurt no-one, something which the police stated at the bail hearing. Two of the defendents were released on bail, one has been remanded in custody and has a further bail hearing next monday, by which time he will have spent 10 days locked up.
The difference between him and the other defendents is that he has a previous conviction – for aggravated trespass, which I’m pretty sure was accrued at Kingsnorth Climate Camp, and because he is currently on bail for sitting down in Fortnum and Mason. Both of these, and the action for which he was arrested for, were peaceful protests.
The judge said that she could not be satisfied that he would not commit further offences whilst on bail and that is why she was holding him on remand
Because of one previous offence, which resulted in a fine, and one offence that has not yet reached trial, the magistrate decided that he should be locked up without trial in case he commits further offences.
By their own logic what happened yesterday is the legal arm of the state detaining people without trial in case they should engage in criticism of their own government. Such a decision is not just disgraceful, it is undemocratic, illiberal and idiotic, not to mention expensive. We can go on about how murderers and rapists get out on bail, but that is not even the most important thing – the fact is that we should never be jailing people for undertaking peaceful protest, with or without trial.