13 August 2010

Tony Greenstein Acquitted of Unlawful Collection

Press Release - Brighton Magistrates rule that Stalls having a Collection Box do NOT Require a Permit from the local Council

Well it may not have been the most famous legal victory there’s been but it made it into the Guardian Diary. Once again Smash EDO is having a liberating effect on the Brighton judiciary!

On a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon on January 9th, Brighton Police decided to mount an undercover operation against protestors staffing an EDO stall in the main shopping centre of Churchill Square in Brighton. Brighton PSC also had a stall a couple of feet away.

Being famed for their intelligence (they detained 85 Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Walter Wolfgang a few years ago under the ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation), Brighton plod decided that the 2 stalls were in fact one. A review earlier in the morning of 9th January outlined the strategy. They were to target the collection tins on the tables of the EDO stall.

Plod thereby visited and after a little ‘persuasion’ I agree to remove said box and put it under the table on the principle of anything for a quiet life, especially when it was freezing cold. When Her Majesty’s best had departed I then put said box back on the stall.

Unbeknown to us a certain Police Sergeant Baker, whose acquaintance with the law he was enforcing was quaint and remote at best, called back his mobile squad, led by PC Dodd (not not Dudd!) who, although he knew nothing about the law in question (Baker didn’t even get the name of the law right in his witness statement) knew enough to nick the boxes of EDO & PSC.

EDO’s box contained precisely nothing (apart from a moth) whereas PSC’s contained £10.22 which I insisted on counting out. Denied legal aid at first I appealed to the magistrates who dealt with the last adjournment, who were persuaded by either my eloquence or helplessness to overturn the said decision of what used to be the Legal Aid Board, now the CLS.

Our case was simple. Brighton Council had drawn up regulations which didn’t correctly implement the Act, and the process of applying to the Council didn’t correctly implement their own regulations. The Council Officer, a hapless lass by the name of Sara-Jane McNaught described herself as a ‘processor’. She dealt with the applications but steadfastly refused any comment on whether said regulations were being implemented etc. She was a cipher in the best traditions and reminded me of Tennyson’s saying in the Charge of the Light Brigade:
Mine if not to Reason Why
Theirs is But to Do and Die
It has been the banality of evil but in this case it is just banal.

The magistrates, after hearing the excellent counsel for the Defence, Brian Richardson of Garden Court Chambers acquitted me, on quite novel grounds that no one had even considered. The Council regulations stipulated that each collector (we had denied collecting money, we merely provided facility for people to donate who detested all Israel’s works) had to have a collection box. As I didn’t have one, the collection box in question being the collective property of PSC, I was acquitted.

So Jonathan Hoffman will have to wait a little longer before I receive Israeli justice.

And my son Tom spent a day in Court learning about the intricacies of a trial in magistrates court!!

Below is a press release and an item from said Guardian Diary:
Legal history in the making at Brighton magistrates' court today, where local activist Tony Greenstein has been arraigned by the rozzers under the Miscellaneous Provisions Act (1916) for running a stall last January for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which had a tin for donations to the cause. They claim the collection was unauthorised, but Tony's arguing no other groups have been prosecuted, and anyway he's been running the stall for years unmolested. He's got legal aid too, so the forces of law'n'order may live to regret taking him on.
Brighton Magistrates rule that Stalls having a Collection Box do NOT Require a Permit from the local Council

At a day long hearing at Brighton magistrates court, Tony Greenstein was found not guilty of collecting money contrary to s.5 of the Factories and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1916.

Brighton magistrates decided that because the Council's implementing regulations stipulate that each collector has to have their own collection box, Mr Greenstein could not be guilty of being a ‘collector’ under the Act. On most stalls there is usually just one collective tin.

The Defence argued strongly that the effect of making stalls apply for a collection permit, when permits are only for one off events or at most a series of events, would be to make it more difficult to run campaigns such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign, No War/Solidarity Groups as well as the many ad-hoc groups who spring up over the building of a new supermarket etc.

The Council’s witness, Sara-Jane McNaught, was unable to comment on whether the Council itself had correctly implemented the Act and was forced to resile from crucial parts of her own evidence.

It was abundantly clear that the reason for the Police action, when Brighton PSC has run a stall a stall without police objecting to a collection tin for a decade, was that Brighton PSC had set up their stall alongside EDO-MBM, the group 8 of whose activists were recently acquitted of criminal damage for decomissioning an arms factory.

The Police believed that both stalls were one and the same. PC Dodd, who carried out the confiscation, and the undercover officer in charge, Police Sergeant Baker, had at best a hazy knowledge of the law in question or even the existence of implementing regulations having only been briefed that same morning. PSC was caught in the middle of an undercover operation the Police had mounted against Smash EDO.

The case of course sets no precedent other than in Brighton & Hove itself. What it does mean is that the Police will now think twice about harassing stalls using their collection box as a pretext.

Brian Richardson of Garden Court Chambers acted for the Defence.


  1. This might be of interest -
    Police step up intimidation in Glasgow
    Scottish Socialist Youth
    11 Aug 2010

    As I was saying to the excellent Eddie Truman of the SSP on his Facebook page, I've a lot of time for Strathclyde Police bobbies, given the appalling social conditions in this part of the world, they have a lot to deal with, but this is just rubbish. There is no excuse for this sort of thing.

    Well done TG and all the excellent people on the plush Englsh Riviera!

  2. plus English Riviera. What a cheek. I live a humble life of a typical worker on the South Coast. You seem to forget that the Tolpuddle Martyrs came from Dorset not Dumbarton!


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