Thursday, August 09, 2007

London news round-up

High Court bans Heathrow protest

A HIGH COURT judge last Monday granted an injunction to the British Airports Authority (BAA) banning a climate change protest that could have disrupted the working of the airports for a while.
But the Mrs Justice Swift refused BAA’s application for a blanket ban on all protests there and left both sides claiming a victory.
BAA, owned by Spanish construction and services group Ferrovial, went to the High Court in London to prevent up to 5,000 people setting up camp between 14th and 21st August in a demonstration against climate change and a proposed third runway at Heathrow.
BAA was ordered to pay the costs of the three groups who challenged the attempt to impose the most wide-ranging restriction on the right to protest ever used in Britain.
The injunction bans three people – John Stewart of the Heathrow Campaign Against Aircraft Noise (Hacan), Josh Garman and Leo Murray of the anti-aviation group Plane Stupid – from interfering with the running of the airport.
The injunction was also applied to the Plane Stupid organisation and to “anyone acting in concert” with it in any illegal activity.
The umbrella group Airport Watch – which includes the Woodlands Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Campaign to Protect Rural England – was not included in the injunction.
Organisers of the Camp for Climate Action said they would go ahead with the protest camp: “The Camp for Climate Change is not covered by the injunction that was that was granted at the High Court today, and will be going ahead as planned,” they said.
“The final injunction provides no additional powers of arrest, and covers a much smaller geographical area, which will not include the camp. Everyone, including the named injunctees, is therefore free to come to the camp.”
BAA had claimed that a blanket injunction was necessary because of the threat of terrorism. They sought to include not just Heathrow but Paddington Station, Piccadilly and parts of the M25 and M4.
But as she restricted the range of the injunction Mrs Justice Swift said: “Police will be deflected from their ordinary duties, including protecting the public from terrorist attack. There is a risk that a terrorist group might use the disruption by protesters to carry out an attack.”
London Mayor Ken Livingstone opposed the blanket injunction and hired a team of lawyers to be in court for the hearing. London Underground and Transport for London were awarded costs as Mrs Justice Swift said it was “extraordinary” that BAA had not consulted them.
On the same day in a separate court Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips dismissed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions that could have ended the Parliament Square anti-war protest picket of Brian Haw. The Lords also ruled that the current restriction of his picket were “unclear and unworkable” but they urged Haw to reach an agreement with the police on the limits of his protest.

Justice4JeanFamily Campaign

THE INDEPENDENT Police Complaints Commission report published on 2nd August is a damning indictment against the Metropolitan Police Service, say the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. The young Brazilian was shot and killed by anti-terrorism officers at Stockwell station on 22nd July 2005.
After a distressing two year wait, the family welcomed the fact that the report exonerated Jean of any allegations of suspicious behaviour which had been fuelled by the misinformation circulating in the media from police sources. A spokesperson for the Justice4Jean campaign said: “This report exposes the Metropolitan Police Service to a crisis of public confidence in their honesty and integrity. The report identifies Andy Hayman as having misled the public and the IPCC have said that this is clearly an example of misconduct.
“The IPCC recommendation to merely issue him with a letter containing ‘strong words of advice’ is not the appropriate response – this report has made his position untenable.
“Regarding Sir Ian Blair, the report’s findings make it seem unfeasible that he was not aware that they had killed an innocent man until the next day when so many people, including senior officers, government officials and even the Met Cricket team were aware of that fact. If it is true that he did not know, then it raises serious questions about his ability to be in full command of the Metropolitan police.
“How can he effectively manage the Metropolitan Police if he is not privy to this vital information? His account about not being aware of this information is even challenged by one of his own senior officers. It raises the suspicion that there has been a cover up. This report has also raised very grave concerns about the Metropolitan Police Authority's role in the aftermath of Jean's shooting.
“This brings into question their ability to hold act independently and impartially and to hold accountable those officers named in this report.”
A spokesperson for the Menezes family today said: “After two years, every institution of justice has failed us and we are left with the impression that the police are above the law. We call on Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to meet with us to explain how she will redress this complete lack of a credible investigation.
“This only makes us even more determined to keep fighting for justice.”

Give us toilets or prepare for strike!

LONDON BUS workers staged a series of protests at key London Transport and local government offices on Thursday 23rd August to protest at the lack of toilet facilities on bus routes and in general.
The campaign has taken a new turn with the capital's bus workers, all members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union section of Unite – the union, threatening a full strike ballot if Transport for London (TfL) and London's local authorities don’t act.
In a hard-hitting newsletter to members the bus workers leaders say some drivers have been so desperate for a toilet break they have had to relieve themselves in public places and been arrested.
Three vital issues will be put before London's transport and local leaders:
· Lack of toilets equals lack of respect for drivers and their health
· Serious health problems arise from not being able to go to the toilet when you need to, especially bladder, kidney and prostate conditions.
TfL says it wants to attract more women into the industry. How can it be serious about this when it cannot even provide adequate toilet facilities for staff? Perhaps it expects these women to bring their own bottles to work!

RMT warns another 130 stations face cuts to ticket-office hours

ANOTHER 130 London Underground stations face cuts to ticket-office hours, says the RMT transport union.
London Underground’s cull of ticket offices is far worse than originally feared, as Tube bosses deliberately create longer queues to drive people away from ticket offices, the network’s biggest union reveals today.
RMT has learned that LUL has a hit-list of 130 stations where further "changes" to ticket office hours are proposed, on top of 39 ticket offices already earmarked for complete closure, 32 scheduled to lose some or all weekend opening, 16 to lose afternoon peak services and 13 facing other major hours reductions.
The union has also learned that Transport for London (TfL) has a deliberate strategy to lengthen queues and frustrate people into going elsewhere, and that its ticket office closure plan is based on predictions of the lower future use that it will help to bring about.
RMT has already warned that it will fight the planned cuts, with industrial action if necessary, and is seeking public support for its campaign to maintain station staffing levels and to keep booking offices open.

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