Defend the Right to Protest Campaign’s statement on the acquittals of brothers, Andrew and Christopher Hilliard.
Student protesters Andrew Hilliard (18) and Christopher Hilliard (23) have today been acquitted, after being charged with violent disorder from 9th December 2010. The jury reached the unanimous verdict within two hours after a trial of two weeks. This brings the total to 11 cases resulting in acquittals for violent disorder from 9th December 2010, with only one case resulting in a guilty verdict. This highlights the reluctance of juries to find violence in the actions of student protesters on the demonstration, notably when the defence have contextualised the demonstration as one which was heavily policed and resulted in many more student protesters being injured than police (notably Alfie Meadows’ extradural brain haemorrhage and skull fracture ). Such injuries were largely a result of police tactics on the day – the use of horse charges, baton strikes and containment which resulted in crushes at potential exit points for protesters.
Andrew and Christopher were arrested on 9th December 2010 after being accused of pulling police officer Cowling from his horse, both young men’s lives have been kept on hold for almost 18 months before finally being able clear their names. Outrageously the day after the incident in 2010, David Cameron publicly announced that ‘the boys who had pulled the police officer off his horse belonged in jail’, despite the brothers denying the charges.
In the defence’s summing up, Andrew’s barrister asserted that in a trial which has seen 8 police officers give evidence against the defendants, at least one police officer has lied, seeking to deliberately mislead the jury, which as she explained was both an unpleasant and difficult job to establish. She also asked the court to consider what a different trial we would have seen without the benefit of vast amounts of footage served and edited by the defence. Footage which depicted police officer Cowling carrying out four separate counts of assault on both Andrew and Christopher. At one point Andrew’s barrister told the jury, “Cowling must think you don’t have eyes in your head”, when comparing Cowling’s version of events with that which the footage showed. In the seconds leading up to Cowling becoming unseated, the defence showed the court footage (also broken down into still photos) which showed officer Cowling pulling Christopher’s hair so hard upwards that it resulted in Christopher being stood on his tiptoes as his heels left the ground. The defence argued it was this retention of Christopher, combined with the officer failing to carry out normal procedure of tightening the girth of the horse he was riding, that resulted in Cowling becoming unseated off his own horse. Christopher said, “we are pleased the jury have come to the right verdict and we will be exploring other routes available including criminal proceedings against the police officer(s) involved.”
It was very difficult for the Hilliard family to hear from 8 police officers who all alleged they witnessed the 4 or 5 seconds of Cowling becoming unseated, yet not one single officer claimed to have seen any of the events leading up to Cowling becoming unseated. They all claimed to have been looking elsewhere as Cowling carried out four separate assaults on both young men, despite becoming suddenly focused on Cowling for the seconds he became unseated. This trial was a reminder of the cover ups and corruption that exists in the police, particularly the Metropolitan police which has a long history of similar conduct. Indeed it has only been with the benefit of footage that recent racist assaults during the August riots have been investigated. The footage many families have failed to attain, who have lost loved ones in police custody reminds us what injustices ordinary people face when it is simply their voices pitched against the police. Jennifer Hilliard said outside court today, “this is a good day for justice and the democratic right to protest.”
The Defend the Right to Protest Campaign welcomes today’s acquittals and we will continue to stand in support of the Hilliard brothers and all those who have endured the court system to fight injustices. The Hilliard brothers winning today is a victory for all those criminalised for protesting, many who are forced to take on the Metropolitan police in the legal system.