There is a lot of legal info available in the legal section of this site.
Legal Support on the day will be available (volunteers to help note arrests always very welcome!). If you are part of a Faslane 365 Blockading Group which is participating in this event, then please do your own legal observing but it will be easiest to let all the tracking be done centrally. Please contact the Legal Working Group for more info.
In writing this briefing we are building on many years of experience of blockading Faslane and on the experience of Faslane 365 so far. Many hundreds of people have been arrested and many more have taken part without being arrested and for most it has been a positive, even liberating, experience.
While the charges and police behaviour over the years have been relatively predictable, this project was intended to be an escalation of the effectiveness of these blockades. The police tactics did change slightly for Faslane 365, with most people being held overnight only to be released with the charges dropped. The claimed justification for this was the risk of re-offending if people were released that day due to the ongoing nature of the project. Since this is the end of Faslane 365 we don't know if people will be released that evening or held overnight.
Remember when reading this that some of what we cover here is worst-case scenarios. It is quite possible that no-one will face anything more serious than Breach of the Peace or Resisting Arrest.
If you go onto the road at the entrance to the base it is likely that at some stage the police will tell you to move. If you refuse then you may be arrested. Ironically, given the reason why we're doing it, the usual charge is “Breach of the Peace”! Sometimes the police issue a warning to a whole group of people before moving in to arrest individuals. Our experience is that if you stay on the pavement it is unlikely that you will be arrested.
Breach of the Peace is a common-law offence (which means it's defined by previous court judgments rather than by Act of Parliament). While the offence goes back centuries the leading judgments (High Court rulings which define what BoP means) are fairly recent and tend to involve anti-nuclear protesters who blockaded Faslane! In theory, BoP requires "conduct severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community. It should be conduct that is genuinely alarming and disturbing, in its context, to any reasonable person ... it is clear that something substantially greater than mere irritation is involved". In practice our court does usually reckon that this includes peacefully sitting in the road at Faslane and you are likely to be convicted.
You may not be prosecuted ― the courts have a finite capacity (and see also below). Some people may be offered Fixed Penalty Notices, which are a bit like a speeding fine in that if you pay (they're usually £50) you don't get a criminal record. Some will hear nothing at all. Some may be prosecuted. This can be either in the District Court or in the Sheriff Court (the Procurator Fiscal gets to choose) and usually results in a fine of £50-£100 if you plead guilty or £100-£200 if you plead not guilty.
If you are locked-on, fail to move when told to, or after arrest, then they may add one of these charges. This may (especially the resisting arrest) be dropped before the case gets to court but it may be prosecuted. Like BoP, these charges cover a huge range of situations but, given the nonviolent and accountable nature of these actions, this would be very much towards the trivial end of the spectrum and would usually result in a small fine.
Faslane is a Designated Area under section 129 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (as amended by the Terrorism Act 2006). This means that it's an offence to be inside the fenceline without lawful authority (and potentially a serious one ― the maximum penalty is a year in prison). However, this only applies if you go inside the fenceline. As long as you stay outside the fence, even if you are on MoD land and/or blockading the gates, then you cannot be charged with this. For more information on this power see the Trident Ploughshares briefing.
It is also possible that they may decide to use section 14 of the Public Order Act (which allows them to put conditions on assemblies in certain situations). Depending on how it's done there are a number of ways to challenge this. The likely sentence, if convicted, would again be a smallish fine. It could make life more difficult for supporters who wish to be present but not to risk arrest ― but if they do impose a s14 they should provide a space in which we are allowed to be. If there were a total ban on assembly imposed then supporters would become potentially arrestable. We will be able to help advise what is likely to be do-able without risking arrest once the terms of the exact order are known. Remember also that the rights to Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Expression are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and into Scots law via the Scotland Act and Human Rights Act. We may well be able to challenge these orders if they become too restrictive.
As of the end of August 2007, there have been nearly 1000 arrests at Faslane on Faslane 365 blockades. Only 43 have been prosecuted. The rest were either given letters (or promised that letters would arrive for them in the post) from the Procurator Fiscal informing them that although there was enough evidence to prosecute them they were not going to this time ― but if they did it again then they might be prosecuted next time. Some of those who had been arrested twice or three times for blockading received the same letter although the practice appears to be to start prosecuting on your third arrest (although 12 of the 38 were first time arrestees ― all from the same group in February, we're not sure why). Once you have got this letter they can't prosecute you. There has been only one fixed penalty notice given to one of the arrestees. Of course, this is the PF's decision and he could change policy at any time.
Make sure you have the phone number of the legal support team and of a solicitor. This will be provided on a Bust Card (get one when you register or at the gates). It is a good idea to write them numbers on your arm as well.
The first thing once you're under arrest is that you should be told that you are under arrest! After that, you will be asked to walk with two cops. If you refuse you will be carried (usually by four cops) either to a van or to the processing centre (in the oil depot by the cemetery car park). Once there you will be asked for your details, they might conduct a very basic search and a 'Polaroid' type photo will be taken of you with your two arresting officers. The only questions you have to answer are name and address. You will have the charge read to you and will be asked if you understand it and if you want to make a reply to it.
You will then be put into a van and taken to a police office. Once there you will be asked the same questions again and you will be searched (should only be a “pat-down” search). Your belongings will be taken off you (if you have a paperback book and ask to keep it they usually let you) and you will be put in a cell. You have the right to have someone informed ― please ask them to inform the Legal Support number on the Bust Card. If you want a solicitor you can ask for that as well (although most people will not need to see one unless they are actually taken to court). Tell the police if you have any dietary or medical requirements.
You may be taken out at some point to have a photograph, your fingerprints and possibly a DNA sample taken (they are allowed to do all three). You may be interviewed but it's unlikely ― the safest thing is always to just say “no comment”. You will be fed and can ask for blankets and water. Eventually, you will be released.
If the police can confirm your details and they are satisfied that the action is over you should be given all your property back and released. With previous Big Blockades, this was later that evening but so far in Faslane 365 most people have been released early afternoon the day following their arrest. The release process can take a long time if there are a lot of people in custody so be prepared for a long wait. We will try to arrange lifts to pick you up. Please ring Legal Support (number on the bust card) when you're out to see if transport is already en route and to let us know you're out.
If you are charged with a serious offence or your details don't check out or you are already on bail or there is a warrant for your arrest then you may be held and taken to court the next morning. [Note that people have often been told on the day of their arrest that they are being held for court then released with warning letters (and the charges dropped) the following day.] You can ask a solicitor to represent you or just to give you advice. You will probably be released on standard bail conditions ― this means that if you are arrested again whilst on bail they can add an extra charge. Bail does not usually require the payment of money sureties in Scotland. They may want to add extra conditions ― such as not to go within a certain distance of Faslane ― but should give you the opportunity to argue against them if you want to. Unless you have a history of breaking bail you should get bail for these sorts of charges.
If you are released with a letter from the PF saying that he thinks you're guilty as sin, but that he isn't going to prosecute you on this occasion then that's the end of it. The police sometimes release people on an undertaking to come back to court on a specified day within the next few days or weeks. They will ask you to sign this and give you a copy. If you sign then it's an extra offence not to turn up on the day in question (note: you don't have to sign if you don't want to ― if you don't they still have to either release you or take you to court on the day after the initial arrest). They can also give you a citation on release, which is a letter saying you have to come to court but which also have the complaint, info about legal aid and a form allowing you to plead by post. If you are released without any paperwork (probably the most likely option given the numbers involved on this occasion) then you may receive a citation (to come to court) or a fixed penalty fine in the post up to a year later.
If you do get prosecuted, there is further resources and a detailed briefing covering the process available. Please let the Legal Working Group know on email@example.com or 07768 312678.
Unlike the autonomous blockades throughout the year we are providing a slightly more centralised legal support structure. It will be essentially the same structure, except that we will be providing the Trackers role centrally. If you are bringing a group straight to the gates then please download the Bust Card and make sure everyone has one (see also registration info). We will have Legal Observers at the gates but affinity groups with self-contained plans should have their own.