Monday, October 09, 2006


From then til now

As we're emailing this to the blog all the apostrophes will become little squares. Sorry bout that, and please interpret acordingly.

Everyone had a marvellous weekend? We've all been resting and recuperating in our various ways, with the result that some of us are more tired than we were on Friday. So, needing to take out a bit of tired tetchiness on someone or something, it's time to talk about Mr Houlder. And despite the title, and with the aid of all the technology at our disposal and a bit of forgetfulness, we'll hopefully get from Thursday to Monday in the space of one posting.

On Thursday afternoon at the end of his examination by Ed Rees, defence QC, Phil referred to a report written by Malcolm Hooper of The Gulf War Veterans� Association about Gulf War Syndrome. Among other evidence concerned with the consequences of the use of depleted uranium weapons it states that a number of UK and US veterans have been found to have DU in their urine almost 10 years after the first Gulf Conflict, and that the presence of DU in urine correlates to an increased risk of cancers, disruption of reproductive hormones, and lowered neurocognitive performance.

Cross examining Phil, Mr Houlder was the epitome of righteous indignation, harrumphing so hard that his chins shook. He showed a touching, though perhaps misplaced, faith in the honesty of senior members of the government, appearing particularly determined to defend the integrity of Jack Straw. As with Toby, Mr.H. asserted that Phil had no respect for democratic processes, despite Phil�s evidence that he�d tried  and exhausted all the usual channels such as lobbying MP�s etc. 

    P and T�s express purpose was to carry out a non-violent action which would not result in harm to anyone, and indeed they haven�t been charged with conspiring to endanger anyone�s safety. Despite this, and the facts that: a) they intended to put caution notices on the planes, b) they intended to stay with the planes and tell their operators what they�d done, and c) that in consequence the most meticulous examination, repair and checking processes would have been carried out on the planes, Mr Houlder tried for some time to imply that they had intended to act with reckless violence, and to get Phil to agree with suggestions that he and T had intended to cut fuel or brake lines. Despite his bullying manner Phil didn�t agree, calmly re-stating the facts. Hmm. Not only has Mr Houlder seemed to want to scare the jury with ridiculous assertions about P and T�s intentions which surely even he can�t believe, but I also remember last Monday he somehow neglected to mention that T and P carried evidence packs during their action. How much does Mr. Houlder care for �the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth�?

After the jury had been dismissed for the day, and on Friday morning, there was extensive discussion of what form of words concerning the definition of war crimes the judge would use to address the jury in his summing up. The upshot was that it made no difference how he defined it, as the jury only had to consider what Phil and Toby believed to be the case.






The main business of Friday was the closing speeches. The prosecution started, and Mr Houlder hit the hyperbolic high notes right from the off, with an undisguised appeal to the jury�s emotions. It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that he doesn�t have a great deal of confidence in getting a conviction on the basis of the factual evidence. He wrongly suggested that B52s from Fairford would be providing defensive air cover for troops going into Iraq. In fact the principle of �Shock and Awe� was that a devastating air attack would precede any advance on the ground, so his implication that T and P�s action would have endangered land forces was, we humbly submit, nonsense. He went on to draw parallels with animal rights activism, and scaled new heights of scaremongering by suggesting that if P and T are acquitted,  there�ll be mobs of militant environmentalists setting fire to cars in a street near you approximately ten minutes later.

This effort to present P and T as the vanguard of anarchy was deflated quickly and effectively in the defence closing speech. Ed Rees appealed to the jury�s common sense and returned their focus to this case, reminding them that the important questions are, what did Toby and Phil believe the circumstances to be, and in the circumstances as they believed them to be did they act reasonably? He also reminded them of the evidence they�d heard about the long consideration Phil and Toby gave to their action, their determination and care in ensuring that their action shouldn�t cause harm to anyone, and about the destructive effects of cluster bombs and DU weapons.


And then everyone disappeared for the weekend, which in blogtime was just three dots long�





In which the judge sums up.

Well, he has done, and we�ll tell all when we can, most likely tomorrow. Meanwhile, the jury have retired to consider their verdict, come back into court to be sent off home, and will return tomorrow to carry on pondering. We�re off to ease the tension with a few beers��.

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