Lee Peters, master and huntsman of the Camarthen, appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court last Monday, 15 August, charged under Section 4 of the Public Order Act. The lay magistrate dismissed the case, saying there was not enough evidence to support the charges.
“He said that in the politically charged atmosphere of the day, V-signs and clenched fists raised to the police does not count as threatening behaviour,” said barrister Richard Griffiths, who defended Peters.
“There was no evidence on video showing that Peters had thrown a bottle. Although he handled a crash barrier, there was no evidence that he used it to charge the police.”
Peters, delighted with the result, walked away from court with his head held high. “The police said I threw a bottle, which I categorically did not do,” he told Horse & Hound. “There is nothing on my record — I’m happy to do whatever it takes [to defend hunting] but of course I’m very happy to have been acquitted.”
Peters was the penultimate hunt supporter to appear in court charged with public order offences from 15 September 2004. Of those others arrested on the day or in the weeks afterwards, most have either been acquitted or had their charges dropped. Three were given a conditional discharge.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is expected to release its report into police behaviour at the Parliament Square demonstration before 15 September 2005.
Almost 1,000 police officers clashed with protesters while the Hunting Act was passed in Westminster. Nearly 400 complaints were made to the IPCC, of which 150 have been investigated.
Thirty-one officers have been warned that complaints have been specifically made against them, and five case files have been placed with the Crown Prosecution Service.
“We aim to wrap up investigations within a year of the complaints,” said a spokesman. “The Guardian and other newspapers that challenged the High Court ruling [news, 28 July] have now handed over their footage, which is good news for the investigation.”
This story was first published in Horse and Hound (25 August 2005)