I arrived at court and after a late appearance by Michael Snow, who clearly believes he is a District Judge (rather than a human being). He immediately ordered me to stand to the side where ‘defendants’ stand. I felt like a two year old. He was definitely exerting his authority or as I would describe it, engaging in his power fetish. He said if anyone recorded the proceedings on their phone he would send them to the cells. He clearly had something to hide although I am not sure he knew that.
I felt completely intimidated and started chanting my favourite affirmation/prayer. ‘Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can , and the wisdom to know the difference.’ I definitely wouldn’t be able to change this man. The cold and calculated way he did ‘business’ sent shivers down my spine.
At the first hearing that was meant to be the trial, the District Judge had decided that the bylaw itself could be challenged but she clearly didn’t want to have to make the decision so she adjourned until 9th September. The plan was for the legal challenge to take place first, and if our challenge was successful, there would be no trial.
Michael Snow had other plans. Perhaps he had a golf match in the afternoon or a fetish club visit planned, or maybe he just thought it made sense, but he decided that we would need to hear the evidence first because he thought the legal challenge was dependent upon it. I cannot see how that is the case because it is the principals that count, not the particulars of the case. My friend Jeremy the barrister and I agreed that it should be in that order. I wonder whether and when he planned this, because when I think about it, it is a lose-lose situation for any District Judge of the lower court to rule on this smatter. Either they rule against the bylaw in which case their beloved provider of bread and butter – Westminster Council –will be upset and will appeal, or they will rule in favour of the law in which case we would appeal at the High Court. So he was rather clever. If he heard the evidence and it didn’t stand up, he could dismiss the cases and then he wouldn’t have to rule on the law itself.
My experiences in court have taught me much. Once again, the expect the unexpected especially when dealing with devious lawyers. Once again, the true colours of the legal system and how it is used and abused by these big Corporations were revealed. They had sent me a letter back in July with a long paragraph explaining how they were going to return my megaphone (because they stole it unlawfully) and then at the end inserted a one liner saying that the council intend to apply to the Court to amend the charges against me to add the words ‘by a person annoyed or disturbed or’ after the word desist.
The original charge said ‘after being requested to desist by a person acting on behalf of a person annoyed or disturbed by the operating of a megaphone’
I didn’t take much notice of this so it was rather a shock when they pulled this out of the hat. They had obviously realized that they had no witnesses. The people he claimed were annoyed were not to be in court so we wouldn’t know exactly what they were annoyed about. If it was the content of what I was saying, the case would fall. So they changed it to the council officer himself, James Joyce, to being annoyed!
The judge allowed it to stand because they had sent me a letter. Another trick which was to backfire (unless it was all planned.)
So James Joyce was called to the stand. They asked if he was religious and he said yes, so he swore on the bible to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I think it would have been more accurate if he would have said ‘nothing like the truth.’
The prosecution barrister then started asking him leading questions. Were you annoyed when Mr Shine was using his megaphone? He paused for a moment and then said ‘yes!’ Were you able to have a conversation whilst he used his megaphone? (pause) ‘No!’ What was Mr Shine saying? He was saying anti capitalist things! (I very rarely mention the word capitalism) He told a fat woman that she shouldn’t eat in McDonalds!’ At that stage I was shaking my head. I would never ever do that to anyone. It was a complete joke. It was so obvious that he had been primed and prepared and told what he would be asked and how to answer.
Then I started with the 3 pages of questions I had prepared. I asked him what he had said to me exactly on the occasion of the first alleged offence. I was on a bollard on my megaphone. He said he had asked me to stop as people were annoyed. He then said that I did stop and that he read me the byelaw and that then I carried on. ‘So I did stop when you asked?’ Err – yes but you carried on. As I questioned him more he became very confused. He had prepared his original statements 2 months after the first occasion and then he had completely changed his tack to himself being the one that is annoyed. (The police have to have a higher threshold for feeling alarm harassment and distress when they deal with public order but here the prosecution were using a trick by changing it to him. Surely his job is to serve the public and not worry about his own annoyance.) Nowhere in the original statements did it mention he himself being annoyed. So he got lost in the lies and deception. He also had to claim that it was not what I was saying that was the problem but the noise level and yet he complained that I was making fun of Westminster council (as if that’s against the law). There was a funny moment. The first incident took place on November 15th when he claimed he told me to stop. Then there was an incident on January 17th. That was where he got the police to come along and I forgot to meditate and I let them force me to give details. But on that occasion I was not asked to stop. In fact I wanted to get away and kept trying to. They admitted that I hadn’t contravened their byelaw on that occasion. I had asked him why then, on that occasion, did he confiscate my megaphone. He was fumbling around for an answer, digging himself into a whole. The judge then made a funny suggestion. ‘Did you believe, Mr Joyce, that once you had asked Mr Shine to stop in November , that this order continued to hold forever more and perhaps THAT is the reason you confiscated the megaphone without asking him to desist?’ he thought for a second and then said ‘Errm Yes!’
When I finally finished with my questions, the judge said that he had to dismiss both cases because the witness was unreliable. He had been keeping a careful tab on things and pointed out all the contradictions in the witnesses evidence. He was annoyed but he wasn’t. He claimed McDonalds had complained yet he claims he personally was annoyed. Michael Snow then started to gather up his pencils and said that he couldn’t possibly hear the challenge to the law because there was no evidence. Jeremy challenged this but Michael was already half way out of the room.
The corruption in the system seems rife to me. The idea that a big Corporation like Westminster Council can spend tens of thousands of pounds taking an individual like me to court with no downside to themselves is obviously completely corrupt.
The idea that this organisation can then get a barrister privately to take on a case against freedom of expression is corrupt and as the barrister claimed 'he had to take the job by the rules of his trade!'
The idea that the judge and the system have one rule for themselves and another for us seems corrupt to me. At the end of the case, I asked for compensation. I had spent dozens of hours on it - should I not be compensated ?
Thats the tip of the iceberg.
But the people are too busy watching x-factor to care it seems.
Jeremy was very disappointed that he had done so much work for nothing. But it turns out that this is the best possible outcome. Watch this space.