PORTSMOUTH THREE DEFENCE CAMPAIGN
The trial of 3 well known Portsmouth hunt saboteurs commences at Portsmouth Crown Court on 1st March 1999. This prosecution is politically motivated and must be opposed. The following describes events leading up to the prosecution and details why you should support the Portsmouth 3 and how you can help.
Because of the extreme violence that hunt saboteurs had experienced from members of the Hursley Hambledon fox hunt a large scale 'sab' was arranged so that saboteurs could attend the hunt in relative safety and use non-violent direct action in an attempt to prevent the hunt killing foxes. The defence campaign have seen sight of a police briefing which proves that they had advance knowledge of the planned sab.
There was a police briefing in the morning and there were a large number of police specialist public order units in neighbouring farms. In addition to this a police vehicle followed the sab's from their meeting point at a railway station to the hunt meet, yet turned off as the sab's arrived at the meet.
This left a potentially volatile situation of hunt supporters and hunt saboteurs un-policed apart from a police spotter plane so high up that the police have not been able to isolate and identify any of the perpetrators of violence.
The Hampshire police response to this was to indiscriminately arrest 42 saboteurs (of approx.. 100 present) at roadblocks later that morning. The police then raided the homes, and in some cases business premises, of all 42 arrested in an operation that has far more to do with evidence gathering for Special Branch, the Public Order Intelligence Unit of Scotland Yard and the Animal Rights National Index (ARNI), than it has to do with solving crime.
Each of the 42 arrested were held in police cells for between 30 to 36 hours and had all of their clothing seized as well as mobile phones, video cameras, sabbing equipment, etc. In addition 5 vehicles belonging to either sab groups or individuals were seized and impounded.
The police then set up a full time CID incident room that was operational for over 4 months and involved upwards of 30 police officers. Despite this massive use of police time and resources they were unable to identify those responsible for damaging hunt vehicles and assaulting some supporters.
Instead 3 well known Portsmouth activists, all of whom were named in statements given by members of the hunt (in some cases incorrectly) have been charged with 'Conspiracy to Commit Violent Disorder'.
Because of the use of 'conspiracy' in the indictment the prosecution do not need to prove that any of the 3 actually committed violent disorder, rather that they wished for this to be the outcome. Conspiracy charges have often been used against political activists because they also reverse the burden of proof so that the defendants must prove that they did not conspire, rather than the prosecution prove that they did. The Portsmouth 3 are innocent of conspiring to commit Violent Disorder.
They are being scapegoated by Hampshire police who have found it difficult to explain how or why they stood by and watched the live pictures from the spotter plane in their incident room but failed to act until it was too late, despite having the resources on the ground.
One conspiracy that is easy to prove is the sycophantic relationship between the police and members of the British Field Sports Society (BFSS) (now the Countryside Alliance). The police had informed the BFSS of the intention by saboteurs to visit the Hursley Hambledon Hunt days in advance. In response to this the BFSS had arranged for their own surveillance teams to attend the hunt and film and photograph events on the ground.
This was no coincidence as the BFSS members concerned normally follow protestors at hunts in West Sussex and Kent respectively and it was the first time in 2 years that this particular Hampshire hunt had been attended. Furthermore, the regional press officer of the Countryside Movement (a coalition of pro-hunting groups) was in attendance despite having never attended this hunt previously.
The film and photographs taken by the BFSS on the day have obviously been handed on to the police and are being used in the police's attempt to prosecute the Portsmouth 3. Of more interest than this is the way that the BFSS and the media used this incident in the run up to the parliamentary debate on the Foster Bill to ban hunting. Within an hour of the incident taking place the pictures were on the lunchtime news bulletins of both network and satellite stations.
There then followed extensive anti-anti-hunt propaganda put out by the likes of pro-hunting Evening Standard proprietor Lord Rothermere in what has to be seen as a well planned and executed attempt to derail the Foster Bill.
The response of both the police and the media must be put into their proper context. There is a catalogue of incidents of extreme violence being used against saboteurs and this has involved serious physical assaults as well as damage to vehicles and property.
The following list is a small sample from the attacks that took place in the few months of the fox hunting season prior to the incident at the Hursley Hambledon:
In the majority of these incidents the police took no action at all against the perpetrators. In the small number of cases that the police investigated they failed to prosecute despite in one case having clear video footage. In another example the police arrested one sab who had been beaten and left semi-conscious in a field and made no attempt to arrest the hunt supporters who had attacked him. The police eventually took him to hospital.
In all of these cases the media have remained conspicuously silent despite often being provided with graphic video footage and photographs.
The Portsmouth 3 are NOT GUILTY and there was never a conspiracy of violence amongst hunt saboteurs. The only conspiracy is the way that this incident was manufactured to serve the interests of the powerful and hunt-dominated Countryside Movement. This was a clear attempt to manipulate the democratic process by undermining the huge opposition to hunting in the run up to the Foster Bill and to generate support for the Countryside Movements desperate campaign to be able to continue to torture and slaughter Britain's wildlife.
Support the Portsmouth 3 by doing whatever you can to publicise the injustice of this show trial and expose its political nature. Support the demonstration outside the court or take whatever action you can personally against any form of Blood Sports, on the 1st March 1999 which is the first day of the trial and the National Day of Action Against Blood Sports.
Contact the Portsmouth 3 Defence Campaign for more information and details of any events or actions that are planned or have happened in support of the Portsmouth 3.
Letters of support to the Portsmouth 3 and any donations are much appreciated and can be sent to The Portsmouth 3 Defence Campaign, c/o Box H, 167 Fawcett Road, Southsea, Hants, PO4 0DH (cheques payable to The Portsmouth Three).