Skip to Content

A day at Newbury Magistrates Court: 26.11.09

Obstruction of the Highway? No, it was not – we didn’t obstruct anything (unfortunately) and our protest was on the entrance road to Aldermaston Gate – not the public highway. It was to challenge these facts that we two had pleaded not guilty, put up with the punishment of being bailed off from camp since the June blockade and finally found ourselves before Judge Crabtree at Newbury Mags. We were somewhat buoyed up by his ruling a couple of weeks earlier that the entrance roads had not been shown to be public highway and by the singular lack of evidence presented to us before the trial by the prosecution.

However, true to form, the prosecution produced new evidence about Aldermaston highways on the day of the trial. We didn’t have to proceed that day they said – oh yeh, and double our travel costs and prolong our bail, very tempting. Anyway we were already planning to present the same evidence ourselves, so off we go. First the prosecution. My arresting officer gives evidence, signed in June, that I was 6 metres from the gates into the base, and then gives evidence, that was dated only 10 days before the trial, that actually I was 26 metres from the gates…. ‘not very good at distances’ he explained under questioning. Ditto the other PC. Then the court settled back into their seats for the nail-biting DVD from the security cameras. This showed more than an hour of traffic driving round the roundabout and into and out of the base, depressingly unaffected by our presence. We watched it frame by frame, fast forward, fast backward, for ever searching for the moment that the prosecution said it had been ‘stopped’ – PG certificate. Then the exciting new evidence about how the entrance/exit roads are now in the process of being adopted by West Berks, so that the taxpayers can pay for maintaining them – how surprising that the prosecution hadn’t provided witnesses that we could question about this. Still, lunch at last!

Now it was our turn … it was difficult to see how we could improve on the crap evidence presented so far ,,, but we brought forward the Byelaws and more evidence that confirmed the entrance roads were not yet fully adopted. Crabtree hinted, several times, that if we didn’t give evidence ourselves he could ‘draw inferences from that’ so into the witness box I go. This was a bit more fun and allowed me to correct the ‘26 metre position’ (which placed me lying down in the roundabout) and discuss kerb crawling …… but we needed to get on with our summing up. Then before I knew it the prosecution and the judge had started a legal discussion about what constituted a highway and where being ‘adopted’ fitted into it. A terminally boring discussion made it obvious that no-one had the foggiest and Crabtree retired to consider it all (ring a friend?) and write his judgement. By now we all had headaches and were fantasising about wine tasting and chasing convoys – not necessarily in that order. It seemed inconceivable that the evidence against us didn’t leave any reasonable doubt but when Crabtree returned he judged us as obstructing (because cars had to manoeuvre round us) and as being on a highway (because preliminary certificates were more important than full adoption). A conditional discharge and £312 costs and the day was over ….. though I still don’t understand how 6 metres can transform into 26 metres nor how obstruction can cause so little, well, obstruction.