By Kim Sengupta
As the Camp for Climate Action began planning in earnest for next week’s protest at Heathrow, one veteran protester against the Iraq war was also enjoying a moment of vindication.
The High Court ruled that restrictions imposed by police on Parliament Square anti-war protester Brian Haw, as he continues his peace camp demonstration were unlawful “by reason of lack of clarity”.
For Mr Haw, by now a veteran of the law courts, it was another triumph in the face of an extraordinary barrage of actions by the Government in an attempt to ban his one man anti-war protest on Parliament Square.
Lord Phillips, sitting with Mr Justice Griffith Williams, dismissed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions against a ruling that the conditions imposed on 56-year-old Mr Haw were in breach of his human rights to protest.
The rules limited the area that can be used by his peace camp and required him to ensure nothing on the site should conceal suspicious items. Mr Haw, claimed the police, had breached both those conditions with the area behind his camp covered in disused placards, boxes and sheeting.
The laws were covered by the recently introduced Serious Organised Crime Act. Mr Haw and his supporters point out the legislation was meant, as the name suggests, to combat serious offences and not to hound a lone protester just because his presence is a matter of continuing embarrassment for the Government.
Mr Haw, a former carpenter, began his campaign in protest against Tony Blair joining George Bush in invading Iraq almost 1,700 days and nights ago. “Isn’t it strange they are spending so much time and money in prosecuting me and using such heavyweight laws and all I am doing is using my right to protest”, he said. ” Yet Blair has faced no prosecution for genocide and infanticide in Iraq, or for sending British soldiers to their deaths in a war based on lies. When will he face justice ?”
The regime change at Downing Street will not, Mr Haw fears, lead to a change in official attitude towards him. “The legal moves they have taken are continuing under Gordon Brown. On the question of Iraq, he isn’t exactly rushing to pull troops out, is he? So I don’t see how he can shrug off responsibility for the people being killed now by the Americans.”
Although the High Court judges found in favour of Mr Haw on the matter of the restrictions, they did allow a challenge by the prosecution, to another ruling by the district judge, that Scotland Yard chief Sir Ian Blair had no right to delegate formulating the conditions to a more junior officer, Superintendent Peter Terry.
Lord Phillips said, “the challenge made on behalf of Mr Haw to the practicality of the conditions imposed may mean that the police will be driven, in the interests of workability, to impose conditions on him that are simpler and more restrictive.
“Mr Haw has chosen for his demonstrations a site that is particularly sensitive. He would be well-advised to co-operate with the police in agreeing the conditions of such demonstrations.”
Superintendent Terry, in describing to the court the difficulties he said he was having in reaching such an agreement with Mr Haw, struck a plaintive note. “The problem is that whenever I do speak to Brian Haw, he stands and shouts at me”.
Mr Haw accepts he does get impassioned in his views about the Iraq war and what he sees as attempts to muzzle the voices raised against it. His stance and very public protest has come at a personal cost, the end of his marriage and regular contact with his seven children.