Students Denied Legal Aid

edo.jpgSchNews | Reckon students are all bone-idle skiving filth who haven’t even got the wit to tie their shoelaces properly? Well then you’d be in disagreement with Judge Parsons (of Brighton magistrates). He’s just refused legal aid to seven students up in front of his bench for ‘aggravated tresspass’ (punishable by up to three months inside) on the grounds that “they are intelligent enough to represent themselves”.

The seven are accused of D-locking and supergluing to EDO MBM’s infamous factory of death in Brighton on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War. Despite the fact that the student protesters are all in their first year and none are studying law, the judge is perhaps paying the defendants a compliment in considering them equal in legal know-how to a barrister (who study for around six years before they are considered ready to defend their clients). They are under stringent bail conditions to stay away from EDO MBMs factories.

Of course legal aid is gradually being whittled away for all of us (See SchNEWS 618). But the decision to cut off the supply this time is interesting in the light of how many cases against EDO protestors have ended in failure for the authorities (See SchNEWS 535). Campaign spokesman Andy Beckett told SchNEWS “By robbing these defendants of their rights to adequate legal representation, the authorities are launching an attack on our campaign as a whole. They’ve been forced to drop cases when it looked as if evidence of police collusion with the factory owners was about to emerge. But that evidence only emerged after careful examination by trained solicitors. The whole thing smacks of a desperate attempt to secure convictions against supporters of our successful campaign”.

The National Union of Students is up in arms at this abuse of the student’s status to trick them out of their right to legal representation. In the words of the USSU education officer; “That students are being denied legal assistance simply because they are students is disgraceful. A fair and public trial is a human right. When students take on international arms dealers without legal representation it is laughable to claim that the proceedings could be fair or equal. At a time when civil liberties are under attack nationally, this court is specifically targeting students as an isolated and disempowered group.”

To support the defendants, fight for civil liberties and take action against the arms trade join Smash EDO at the Carnival Against The Arms Trade…