This is a guest post by Netpol member Legal Defence & Monitoring Group (LDMG).
For (too?) many years, LDMG has been urging protesters who get nicked to plead not guilty, point out that being charged is not the same as being convicted. Even if it seems that you are bang to rights, there is a long way between arrest and trial.
17% – the chance of arrest
As you can see from the tables below, only 43 of the 100 cases we have monitored ever even went to trial. Of those that did, a number were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service at the start of the trial. A common reason for throwing the case out of court was the police not even showing up as witnesses, or offering no evidence, sometimes ‘losing vital tapes or documents.
43% of cases dropped
A further 13 were acquitted at trail or on appeal. So, on our reckoning, if you are charged with an offence arising from a protest, there is only a 17% chance you will end up with a conviction!
A common myth is that sentences are much worse if you plead not guilty but are then found guilty. In our experience, this is not necessarily the case, although new court charges recently brought in will add to the financial cost of a guilty verdict – time to start fundraising for legal costs amongst your groups.
So our advice remains:
- Make no comment
- Accept no caution
- Plead not guilty
- Contact LDMG for advice
LDMG can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via BM Box HAVEN, London, WC1N 3XX
Outcome of 100 London cases monitored by LDMG between December 2012 and September 2015
Table 1: Not Guilty
|Dropped before trial||43|
|Police witness didn’t show up – case dismissed at start of trial||10|
|Complainant didn’t show up – case dismissed at start of trial||1|
|No evidence offered – case dropped at start of trial||13|
|Charges dropped at trial – mistaken identity||1|
|No case to answer at half-time||1|
|Won on appeal||1|
|TOTAL NOT GUILTY||83|
Table 2: Guilty
|Conditional discharge + fine||5|
In four cases, the outcome is not known. We have omitted a Critical Mass trial of 9 people – 6 were acquitted and 3 found not guilty.