Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Mr Foot! I’d like you to meet Mr Bullet.

Oh my word. Whoever would have thought it?

The award for the biggest supporter of the Camp for Climate Action 2007 goes to…the British Airports Authority and their ludicrous attempt at an injunction.

Aided and abetted by corporation-lovin’ lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden (famed for defending poor defenceless multinationals from nasty peaceful protesters), BAA have spent the last week attempting to slap climate change campaigners with the most extraordinary and wide ranging criminal injunction in British legal history. They wanted to make it illegal for members of fifteen groups (ranging from local anti-runway lobby groups to the National Trust) to protest anywhere near Heathrow Airport, including the Piccadilly Line and parts of two major motorways. BAA tried to use the 1997 Prevention from Harassment Act to criminalise up to 5 million people and prevent them from coming to the Camp for Climate Action (14th – 21st August).

They completely and utterly failed. One farcical court case later and BAA’s proposed sweeping ban on peaceful protest was reduced to a small civil injunction against three individuals and the direct action group Plane Stupid, with the upshot being that if certain people do certain things at Heathrow that are already illegal, then they might face stronger penalties than usual, if it can be proved in court that they were breaking the terms of the injunction as well as the law. For this glorious non-triumph BAA ended up paying not only Lawson-Cruttenden’s doubtless extortionate fees, they also had to pay for everyone else’s costs as well (apart from the three injunctees and Plane Stupid, whose costs were covered in any case).

The mini-injunction (minjunction?) that BAA ended up with provides no extra powers of arrest and does not cover the Climate Camp, which will go triumphantly ahead and will probably be much bigger than it would have been thanks to the enormous amount of publicity generated by the court case. (You can check out the latest fantastic-looking timetable of workshops and events planned for the camp here.)

Other good things to come out of this:

  • Thanks to the juicy court case story, campaigners were able to pop up all over the media this week talking about the link between aviation and climate change;
  • BAA managed to simultaneously look evil and buffoonish, which can’t really add much credibility to their already-pretty-pathetic arguments for airport expansion;
  • The judge (Mrs Justice Swift) made some clear rulings on how the Prevention from Harassment Act was not intended to be used to stifle peaceful protest, which will hopefully make it much harder for amoral slimetoads like TLC to play their nasty little legal games in the future.

There was one slightly sour twist in yesterday’s events, however: those cheeky rapscallions BAA sneaked out of court before the hearing was finished and, displaying the integrity and honesty that make them such a beacon of good corporate practice, they told all the media that they’d won the case. Combine this with a healthy dash of lazy journalism and what do you get? All the major media outlets trumpeting BAA’s “victory” for a few hours before getting round to reading the results properly and realising they’d got it wrong. By this time, the almost hilariously dire freebie “London Paper” had already printed their brilliant “Heathrow kicks out eco-demo” headline, accompanied by an article so crudely cut-and-pasted from the newswires that it included both of the following sentences:

But campaigners claim the order will stop up to 5 million people using the roads and public transport near the airport.”


A spokesman for Plane Stupid, one of the organisations behind the protest, said: “BAA sought a criminal injunction against 5 million people and in fact didn’t get anything like that – it was a complete failure.””

Sheer genius.

Even the usually-reliable George Monbiot managed to get confused over this – in today’s Guardian he’s written what would have been a great article about the erosion of the right to peaceful protest if only BAA had won their case. Except they didn’t.

One last time then, just to clear this up: as explained on the camp’s website, the Camp for Climate Action is completely injunction-free, is going ahead as planned, and is going to be utterly brilliant.

Special thanks must go to BAA for all of their hard work in making this possible.


Jenny said...

Hurrah! I nearly mailed you about this when I read the rather confused news reports; then I got sidetracked; might have known you'd let me know what was actually happening anyway. Yay!

Anonymous said...

dude why are you alive? Don't you know your life is destroying the enviroment and will kill us all?