Michael Mansfield Defends Students’ Right to Protest, Criticizes Heavy Policing and Draconian Sentencing

In the Observer today, the celebrated QC Michael Mansfield, who has been involved in numerous high-profile legal cases including the Guildford Four and the Stephen Lawrence murder trial, announced that he was bringing his partial retirement to an end to act on behalf of Alfie Meadows, a 20-year-old student who suffered head injuries during a tuition fees protest last December, as I explained here. Despite being left with brain damage, Meadows is “awaiting trial on charges of violent disorder,” as the Guardian explained.

As a result, Mansfield was undoubtedly correct to state, “We praise those in the Arab Spring and condemn the force used against them by their governments, yet allow our own rights to be eroded,” and to ask, “What is happening here? A direct attack is being made on the right of people to go out on the streets and show their solidarity and unity with others of the same opinion and hold peaceful protest.”

As the Observer also explained, Mansfield’s warning came amid “controversy at unusually harsh prison sentences” handed down to two students, Francis Fernie, 20, and Charlie Gilmour, 21, who were both sentenced last month for their part in protests. Fernie received a one-year sentence for throwing two sticks from placards at police lines at the giant TUC-led anti-cuts protests in central London on March 26 this year, and Gilmour, the son of Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour, received a 16-month sentence for “outrageous and deeply offensive behaviour” at a student protest last year. An undergraduate at Cambridge University, Gilmour had “thrown a bin at a Rolls-Royce carrying Prince Charles, kicked at shop windows and swung off a war memorial,” as the Observer put it. Both he and Fernie said that they had “got carried away in the heat of the moment” and, as the Observer described it, “offered profuse apologies.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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