Nuisance neighbour laws used to silence protesters

Nine people were in court last month, facing charges brought in accordance with the Anti-Social Behaviour Act after they held a peaceful protest outside offices belonging to US bulldozer manufacturer Caterpillar.
August 2004

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists were demonstrating outside Caterpillar's UK financial offices in Solihull in protest at the firm's supply of equipment to the Israeli military.

Defendant Chris Osmond said: "We know that Caterpillar bulldozers are being used to build the [separation] wall in the West Bank. And [the Israelis] used the same machines to destroy the Palestinian village of Nazlat Issa& Thousands of homes have been flattened and thousands of Palestinians have been forced into destitution. It is barbaric and illegal."

Anti-social behaviour legislation is normally used in an attempt to control neighbourhood nuisance and youths causing annoyance. This shift towards using it against protesters represents a deepening of New Labour's assault against civil liberties, and could have profound implications for groups protesting against corporations.

The Caterpillar protest is typical of a growing number of cases in which individuals are being prosecuted merely for drawing attention to the much more serious and deadly crimes committed by corporations. But academics have argued that anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) could be put to better use against the corporations.

Hazel Croall and Jenifer Ross, both corporate crime experts at the University of Strathclyde's Law School, said: "The Asbo is very well suited to being used against anti-social business, probably more so than against the individual, since the behaviour covered by Asbos is more concerned with the harm caused than the intention of individuals."

In June the first "white-collar" Asbo was brought by Camden Borough Council against executives of Sony. The corporation was responsible for mass fly-posting advertisements in the north London borough. The local authority is currently investigating another 60 cases of corporate anti-social behaviour.






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