I invited a few select people to come and her the case. I arrived 10 minutes early and in the waiting area were seated 3 PCSOs waiting to give evidence int he case. I said hello and asked if they remembered me jokingly. It was all in very good humour. A few friends turned up and then Charlie turned up and said 'Is this the trial for Danny Shine and the 20 Kilos of Cocaine ?' Again all good humour.
Then the prosecutor - a woman in her thirties - called me. Just as we were going into court she said 'We are going to lay a new charge on you - Section 5 of the public order. I was totally shocked. I had prepared so diligently for this byelaw - and now she was changing the charge ? How could this be permissible ? BUt it was. I went into the court room - which was just like a normal room - not even a dock. She handed me the wording of the charge. I was so shocked that I didn't even read it. I told the magistrates that I could not possibly defend myself because I hadn't prepared for this.
The problem for them was that there were FIVE police people there and a whole day in court set aside for this. To adjourn would be crazy cost wise. They made it clear to her that they were not impressed with what she had done. When a person represents themselves, I must say that the magistrates and clerk do go out of their way to help.
I told them i needed more time and they went out of the room and when they returned , they said they couldn't give me the time. I could have 10 minutes but thats all. I was still in a state of fluster but one thing I didn't do was to go into victim mode. This was what was happening and this was meant to be.
For some reason, this CPS prosecutor was determined to get me. On the way up in the lift, Charlie had discovered that she was actually an ex police woman ! So it could be that she had seen the films and was not impressed and that is why. or alternatively she had seen the case only that morning and realised that she had no chance of winning. You see the reason she changed it to a section 5 is that for almost all laws, the CPS need evidence. in my case there were no witnesses. But for section 5, all the police need to say is that 'someone' complained. They dont need to say who. Then , if they ask you to leave and you refuse, they can charge you with section 5. (more about that later)
i went outside and tried to stay calm. My wife and sister - both very wise, suggested that it would not be wise to get the case adjourned because these magistrates were already sympathetic and that might not be the case in another court.
In the previous weeks, both a lawyer and a clerk friend had mentioned that there was something called being 'bound over to keep the peace.' This is a deal whereby the prosecution agree to drop the charges and I would agree that for a certain sum of money for a fixed period, if I breached the peace, I would be fined that sum. The strange thing about this legal fiction (its all fiction of course) is that it can only be applied if there is a real chance that i WOULD breach the peace again !! I decided to ask for the bind over. At first we couldn't believe that the prosecutor would agree but with hindsight, she obviously realised that the magistrates were already against her so it may be her best bet.
The prosecutor askled the Mags if they would agree to the bind over. They said that they wanted to hear a bit about the case. The prosecutor then read out a statement which was so skewed, it made me sound like a monster. She added a critical lie at the end which I am sure the police would have backed up even though it wasnt in any of their 5 statements. She said that people had complained and that they had asked me to leave and I refused. This was a blatant lie. The prosecutor then recommended that I be given the longest bind over.
I then gave my said of the case, explaining about the dont panic sign being inspired by teh hitchhikers guide and that I am a performance artist etc.
After retiring for a few minutes , the Mags returned and gave the prosecutor a good old telling off. They said that this country prides itself on freedom of expression and that I hadn't even been on the railway and that they were clearly not impressed. They gave me the shortest bind over possible - 3 months- at the smallest amount of £50.
I have had mixed feelings about the whole thing since but it certainly feels like a weight off my shoulders. the whole process is so intimidating and confusing and it feels rather out of balance to me to put it mildly.
When I saw the officer who arrested me, I apologised to him for getting into a dispute and he seemed to appreciate that apology.
The main learning point from the court day was that i went there with a mindset of compassion towards all who were there even including the prosecutor. She has her life and is stuck in the system. She came in with fear energy for whatever reason and I came with love energy. And it seemed to work out for me in the end.
I was disappointed that I didn't get to make my speech and ask all the carefully thought out questions but part of me thinks that this was a good thing because it meant that I didn't have to fight the system. My feeling is that fighting the system will ultimately fail because it has been in place for a very long time. But love , it is said, is the answer to all questions.
For those who are really keen, let me have your email and I will email you a copy lof the the police statements and my questions and speech.
Question for Edward the lawyer - I presume it is not possible to appeal or challenge what happened given her unethical behaviour changing the charge at the last minute ?