Rosa Parks and the Suffragettes: viewed by the authorities at the time as a threat to the State, now held up as remarkable people who pushed their societies, by breaking the law, in the right direction. Today, we are lucky to have my client and friend, Lindis Percy.
Lindis, for those who don’t know her, is a well-known campaigner. Former nurse, midwife and health visitor, human rights campaigner, wife, grandmother, pacifist and much, much more besides, Lindis is the Coordinator of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB). CAAB works to bring public awareness, scrutiny and accountability of the US Visiting Forces and their Agencies in the UK and around the world.
Arrested hundreds of times, usually on spurious grounds, Lindis has helped to expose the goings-on at American Bases, especially NSA Menwith Hill near Harrogate. The recent ‘revelations’ regarding NSA Menwith Hill spying on the German leader’s mobile phone calls are of no surprise to Lindis. CAAB works in many different ways. They have held demonstrations every Tuesday, outside NSA Menwith Hill for 14 years.
But why has Lindis, and me as her solicitor, been in the news of late? Because I obtained an apology and compensation for Lindis from West Yorkshire Police, following an incident during the Olympic Torch procession of 2012.
This is what happened: Lindis, a Harrogate resident, heard that when the Olympic Torch was to pass through Harrogate on 19 June 2012, American military personnel were going to be the guard of honour: the militarisation of a once in a lifetime event. Unsettled by this, Lindis went into Harrogate town centre to quietly protest; Lindis also wanted to see the passing of the Olympic Torch.
As the CCTV footage reveals, the police (West Yorkshire Police were policing the event) were aware (probably via surveillance) that Lindis was going to be in Harrogate as a police officer approached Lindis and asked: “Is it Ms Percy?” From then on, Lindis was followed everywhere she went. In addition, West Yorkshire Police had a specialist video crew to monitor Lindis (the footage of which was wiped).
When Lindis found the US military personnel preparing their flags in a side street Lindis approached and spoke gently to the soldiers. Nobody complained. Then, without warning, Lindis was roughly pulled away by a police officer and surrounded by around five police officers. Understandably, Lindis felt intimidated.
After being allowed to leave Lindis was closely followed by four officers everywhere she went. Speeded up on CCTV, the footage is most comical, resembling a Benny Hill sketch.
Sometime later when Lindis returned to near where the US Military Personnel had been, she was arrested ‘to prevent a breach of the peace’. Handcuffs were aggressively applied, during which Lindis sustained a minor injury to her wrist. At no time was Lindis aggressive, as is her way. Lindis was told that two members of the public had complained about her.
Eventually, on this hot day, Lindis was put in a police van: she was never searched. Lindis was kept in the cage for 20 minutes before she was driven to the police station outside of Harrogate. Just as Lindis predicted, when she arrived at the police station she was de-arrested and then driven back into Harrogate: the Olympic Torch had passed. Lindis filed a complaint immediately.
Unsurprisingly, the internal Police Standards Report admonished any officer from blame. Unperturbed, Lindis decided to lodge a claim. With the assistance of London counsel, Anna Morris, a letter of claim was sent to West Yorkshire Police. To the credit of West Yorkshire Police’s legal department, liability was admitted and an apology given and compensation paid. For the record, West Yorkshire Police admitted to: wrongful arrest; false imprisonment; assault; and breaches of her human rights, specifically the right to liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly.
Of course my client’s detractors will say that it was fair enough that West Yorkshire Police prevented my client from disrupting the passage of the Olympic Torch. Disrupting the event was not something my client would have done. With hindsight, what my client was doing was demonstrating against, amongst other things, the bugging of the German Chancellor’s phone. My client awaits Angela Merkel’s thanks….
(And Lindis will no doubt be embarrassed by what I am going to say, but I will say it anyway:) in years to come, school children will learn about Lindis Percy: history will judge her well. We all have a debt of gratitude to people like Lindis Percy.