They called it the Angry Brigade trial. It was the top priority hunt, with the so-called crack squad of 25 detectives, 50% Special Branch, that planted guns, explosives and detonators at 359 Amherst Road in August 1971 in a desperate attempt to stop the Angry Brigade from destroying the sacred property of the ruling class.
The odds against proving this planting job in court were enormous. Yet the defence case had the jury virtually split down the middle. For 3 days the jury were divided 7 to 5 (5 for complete acquittal on everything.) Finally, a majority verdict led to a squalid compromise; 4 acquitted, 4 guilty - 4 got 10 years with a jury plea for clemency (part of the deal.)
It was still a victory for the people who defended themselves. Relying on lawyers alone would never have got them so close to a spectacular victory against the state - everyone agrees on that.
The defence succeeded in proving that the police had (i) the motive, (2) the opportunity, and (3) the knowledge of explosives in order to commit the crime - the crime of planting evidence.
And such was the priority to nick someone or another for the Angry Brigade bombings, that it comes as no surprise that they quite happily selected 8 innocent people. As we have shown elsewhere in U.P.A.L., it’s no skin off a pig’s back if they get the wrong ones.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE DEFENCE
(1) The careful selection of a 100% working class jury, which did not have any trouble in believing that “coppers are bastards” (unlike middle class juries.) Getting the jury was based on a challenge to any juror who had establishment connections with Angry Brigade targets - e.g. cabinet ministers, judges, the police force, the armed forces, and securicor. This was an unprecedented challenge to the political bias of courts and newspaper prejudice.
(2) An attack on scientific evidence … at the end of the case, the prosecution almost abandoned science, and Mathews, the prosecutor, told the jury to rely on common sense instead. The defence called expert witnesses on chemistry, statistics, and handwriting. In most courts, the prosecution’s scientific evidence goes sadly unchallenged.
(3) Three of them defended themselves from the dock, even though they had to do it fighting from their prison cells. But with the help of their McKenzie advisors, they achieved what no lawyer could have achieved - a direct personal rapport with the jury.
(4) The jury was invited to ask questions directly. Justice James ruled against this and instead insisted that all questions from the jury be passed up to him, the judge, and he would ask them. During the course of the trial, the jury asked a series of very good questions.
(5) All the lawyers in the trial (except the one Q.C.) were forced to respect collective group decision-making. In no other trial have so many lawyers listened so carefully to those defendants defending themselves.
(6) Cross-examination by the 3 defending themselves delved deep into police motives for lying, the psychology of the bomb squad, and the point that innocence or guilt has no bearing whatsoever on the results of a V.I.P. police investigation. Getting someone suitable in the dock is what counts - many of the jury got the message,.
(7) Similar cases of planting explosives were referred to e.g. the Irish arms trial based on a Special Branch plot to plant guns and explosives. All the defendants in this case were acquitted (See Sunday Mirror, June 18th). Judge James hated this trial being mentioned.
Detective Inspector Hales has just been charged with a blackmail charge and possessing explosive substances. Unlike the Stoke Newington people, this cop has been given £10,000 bail. Of course, if a cop has explosives it’s not such a serious offence, as he is not likely to aim them at the establishment.
(8) Cases of specific police corruption were put to the police witnesses. It caught them unawares.
(9) The defendants opened up their lives to the jury. They carefully explained the whys and wherefores of their class opposition to the state. They were so successful in getting jury support on purely political matters, e.g. their research against the notorious Freshwater property tycoons, that Mathews made a big point of summing up for the prosecution against any “feelings” influencing the jury’s verdict.
Mathews told the jury, “it matters not what your feelings may be about capitalist landlords”… whilst conceding that such companies may not be very savory features of our society, Mathews was saying, - stick strictly to the law, members of the jury - even though the law protects precisely these property tycoons. There is no hypocrisy like courtroom hypocrisy. Always make the jury understand the charade that it is.
(10) They turned the conspiracy on it’s head, and told the jury about the conspiracy of bosses, cabinet ministers prosecutors and judges to find scapegoats for the Angry Brigade, and to protect their property with every ruthless means at their disposal.
(11) The defence prevented the prosecution from gaining the victory the establishment expected. And with a little more luck, all 8 would have been acquitted.
We can all learn a lot from this trial. (See the Stoke Newington 8 Defence Group publications on the trial.)
2’S COMPANY, 3’S A CONSPIRACY
The conspiracy to cause explosions between Jan. 1968 and August 1971 (against all eight defendants) was heavily attacked.
Conspiracy is an umbrella charge which allows the law to substitute guilt by association and suspicion for concrete evidence. In any case, conspiracy is very useful because the prosecution do not have to prove that anybody actually ever did anything.
Added to this is the nebulous nature of the charge, where it is not necessary for the so-called conspirators to even be named. You can always be charged on your own, as a “conspiracy with persons unknown.” Conspiracy laws are the natural tools of a semi-police state.
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
The 6 month, trial was an amazing extravagant attempt by the government to get vengeance on the “Angry Brigade.” 529 building workers die on building sites every year. Somehow these deaths, neatly reclassified as “industrial accidents” are buried far away from the publicity glare of front page violence. Official society calls knocking the plaster in Robert Carr’s kitchen a “terrifying violence” and ignores the callous brutality of everyday death at work.
All the noise about “Angry Brigade violence” had little relationship to the amount of damage that was done. The establishment were frightened stiff, and not of a few pathetic pounds of gelignite. They were scared of the politics behind it.
Four brothers and sisters have been sentenced to 10 years - jailed not for any crime - but for attacking the interests of the ruling class. Up Against the Law is in complete solidarity with them, and with all other prisoners whose only crime was to attack their property interests.
From: "Up Against the Law" issue 2 (1972?) [Actually, this issue appeared 17 February 1973].