Simon Moore: notes towards a defence

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On 3 May, Simon Moore will face a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court to determine whether (according to the Inside Left blog, which has published a statement from him) he should be pre-emptively banned from

  1. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant’s residence withinEnglandandWales.
  2. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any road being used on that day for the passage of the Olympic torch, or on which any Olympic competition or practice venue is taking place – e.g. the marathon – within England and Wales;
  3. Not to trespass on, or without the permission of the owner to interfere with, any building or land;
  4. Taking part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games or Diamond Jubilee celebrations;
  5.  Obstructing the movement or passage of any Olympic participant between their residence, practice venue or place of work and venues being used for Olympic competition or cultural purposes and vice versa

The ostensible justification for these measures is that Moore has been successfully prosecuted for obstructing police officers at the Occupy Leyton Marsh site, and received a custodial term of 4 days. Having been prosecutes once, he is now being portrayed as a serial protester who must be prohibited from taking part in any further actions.

ASBOs have long been criticised because they give a barely fettered power to individual police officers (and because they are heard in the Magistrates Courts, the police do almost always get the orders the seek) to creatively invent new criminal offences, meaning that people are then prosecuted for “offences” which Parliament never designated criminal. 

Breaches of ASBOs are prosecuted and result in jail terms. The ordinary practice of the Magistrates Court, when faced with the breach of an ASBO is to order a custodial sentence, which in Moore’s case (because it would be a repeat conviction) would be likely to be lengthy.

In this way, by doing mundane acts, which on no rational basis could actually be characterised as anti-social behaviour (eg standing 98 yards away from a road that in two months time will be part of the marathon route) Moore potentially faces severe penalties.

Even the Coalition government accepts that ASBOs are an unhealthy development of our law and should be removed. (Although the government has taken no practical steps though to act on this promise).

My own approach would be as follows:

Agree nothing in advance and if need be appeal. If you can get the case away from the Magistrates Courts and into the High Court you will find that the atmosphere changes, there is a different approach altogether.

The courts have repeatedly said that an order can only be justified if it is completely comprehensible and no person could unwittingly breach it.

But consider the terms

  1. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant’s residence withinEnglandandWales.

Has Moore been given maps showing where every “existing or proposed” competition, venue, route and residence is situated? If not, how is he expected to know whether he is unwittingly breaching that order or not?

Clauses 2 and 5 duplicates the “route” provision in clause 1 and are unnecessary.

Clause 3 bears no rational relationship to what he is accused of doing. Moore is not a serial occupier, he does trespass on flats or houses. He has protested once at an Olympic site. Clause 3, as currently drafted, would potentially make it a criminal offence for him to enter a shop without the owners’ permission.

You just have to fight every dot and comma of the proposed order.

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