Thursday, November 13, 2008

Police payout to student


OXFORD - Jonathan Leighton, the 19 year old St Anne's
College student from Reading, who was arrested "for littering" on 13th
January this year when trying to throw a bottle of water to a tree
protester, has received a four-figure out of court settlement and a formal
apology from Thames Valley Police.

Gabriel Chamberlain had been camping in the Bonn Square tree for 12 days
in protest at the council's felling of around 40 mature trees in the
area as part of their development plans. Many felt their actions were
inhumane after they spent around £12,000 [1] on a metal fence "ring of
steel" and private security contractors, designed to prevent Mr.
Chamberlain being given food and water by supporters.

This settlement comes at an embarrassing time for the City Council, just
before the unveiling of the "new" Bonn Square on November 28th. This
announcement is an awkward reminder of the widely-criticised manner in
which the trees were removed without warning from Bonn Square and the
surrounding area in January, sparking angry local protests, which included
the arrest of Mr Leighton as well as county councillor Deborah
Glass-Woodin [2].

In response to the settlement, Mr. Leighton said, "I am very pleased
with this result. What I experienced was blatant political policing; my
actions were not so much against the law as against the police. The fact
that I was handcuffed and held in a police cell is humiliating. I
wouldn't wish it to happen to anybody else, which is why I think it is
crucial to explore legal avenues and hold the police accountable for
their actions."

Sarah Horne, a local campaigner who was also involved in the Bonn Square
protests said, "Unfortunately many people experience unlawful arrests,
violence, and other oppression when they take peaceful direct action on
climate change and other environmental and social issues. Hopefully this
result will remind the police that they are meant to be protecting the
public, not harassing peaceful protesters."

The money from the settlement will be used to help with local
environmental campaigns.

For more information or interviews, please call 0792 9898 121.


1. Sian Cox-Brooker, Cherwell Newspaper, Friday 8th February 2008

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