A policeman approaches Donnachadh McCarthy to arrest him in the middle of a media interview in Parliament Square, 19th December 2014. Photo: still from Youtube video by letmelooktv (embedded below).
It's not just me on trial - it's British democracy and British justice
13th August 2015
Democracy campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy is in court tomorrow tomorrow on a fictitious charge of 'assault against a security guard in Parliament Square'. But his real offence was to expose the corruption at the heart of the Lib-Dems, with the sale of peerages by political parties for around £300,000. And now the CPS is trying to deny him a fair trial.
While the legal noose tightens around my neck, a corrupt, illegal and deeply anti-democratic practice - the sale of peerages by political parties at a going rate of some £300,000 a pop - goes uninvestigated and unprosecuted.
Last December as part of the peaceful weekend Occupy Democracy protest in Parliament Square, I was standing quietly with a placard stating "Arrest Nick Clegg for Selling Stolen Peerages".
Private security wardens working for Boris Johnson had been dangerously pushing protesters back over the fencing that the Greater London Authority had erected around the square to prevent the protest from taking place.
At about 7.30pm a protester whom I did not know jumped over the fence and ran past me. The warden who had been standing beside me, lunged at the protester and instinctively I reached out to protect the protester.
STOP PRESS 14/08/15 - Case Dismissed! The judge intervened half way through Donnachadh's evidence, said it was clear that contact with the chief Heritage Warden was accidental and to continue was a waste of time. She also noted Donnachadh's good character.
Whilst doing so I lightly bumped into the warden, who triumphantly turned to me and declared something along the lines of "I am going to get you for assault". I stared open mouthed at him and said something like "You cannot be serious."
About an hour later, a number of police approached me whilst I was giving a Livestream interview about how corruption works in Britain's political system and taken to a police station and charged with 'assault and battery'.
The trial finally takes place tomorrow, Friday 14th August at Westminster Magistrates Court.
Video: Donnachadh McCarthy's arrest, 19th December 2014.
So why was I standing there with that placard?
The story starts nearly 20 years ago, when as a member of the Lib Dems national executive, I was astonished at how so many rich corporate donors, corporate lobbyists and corporate directors that I did not even know were members of the party, would suddenly be appointed by the leadership to be Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords, with the power to pass legislation on our behalf for life!
As part of a series of measures aimed at cleaning up the corruption and dishonesty I found at the heart of the party, I decided with colleagues, to seek to change the rules so that the leadership would no longer appoint through patronage the Party's nominees to the Lords, but instead would have to appoint those elected by the party to be it's nominees.
Ashdown was the leader at the time and along with the party's parliamentary parties in both houses of Parliament, they vigorously opposed the proposed elections.
However, after numerous attempts we finally got enough local member support for the proposal to be debated at conference. Amazingly, despite the leadership trashing the proposal, we won! The party subsequently elected a panel of nominees for the Lords.
By then the party had a new leader, Charles Kennedy, who largely respected the process in his first list of nominees to the Lords - six out of eight were from the list. But then outrageously, he completely reneged on his second list where the majority of the nominees were the usual donors and cronies and not from the elected list.
I was outraged and submitted a formal complaint to the party's Federal Appeals Panel. Kennedy told them that he made the appointments in his capacity as an MP and leader of the Parliamentary Party and so the panel had no jurisdiction over him on the issue. The Panel accepted this and so the complaint failed.
I therefore submitted a formal complaint to the Commissioner on Parliamentary Standards, reporting Kennedy's betrayal of his pledge to honour the electoral process. This time Kennedy told the Commissioner that he appointed the peers in his capacity as party leader and so they had no jurisdiction. The Commissioner accepted this and so the complaint was not upheld.
'The system lacks integrity - but what can I do?'
A few years later, I left the party after my resignation had been demanded by the party president Navnit Dholakia, for whistle-blowing on the party's corrupt refusal to implement the rules on Lib Dem peers selling their services as corporate lobbyists to the nuclear, arms, GMO and alcohol corporations.
Despite the Kennedy betrayal, the party kept electing its nominees to the Lords. And Nick Clegg, the new leader, kept ignoring them by continuing to appoint the donors and cronies he chose.
In November 2014, I wrote to Lord Bew, chair of the supposed Committee on Standards in Public Life, reporting a statement by the LibDem Peer and former party treasurer, Lord Razzall, that the system of party donors was "quasi-corrupt" and asked him to conduct an inquiry into the selling of peerages, stolen from those duly elected by the party, by Nick Clegg.
Lord Bew replied stating that he agreed that the system of party donors becoming peers raised suspicions and that the party funding system was corrosive and lacked integrity. But he added that as the political parties had refused to address this lack of integrity, that there was nothing further his committee could do.
So having exhausted all political and procedural means at my disposal, I was left with nothing but my democractic right to protest, which is why I ended up standing there with that banner calling for Nick Clegg's arrest for selling stolen peerages, on the night I was arrested.
These abuses are corrupting our politics from top to bottom
But why have I spent so much time and years campaigning on this political issue?
It's because I believe that the corrupt system of selling peerages by our major party leaders, goes to the heart of the corruption of our political system.
It has resulted in a House of Lords that is full of
- private health care lobbyists selling off our precious NHS,
- fossil fuel lobbyists trashing our planet,
- bankers skewing the system in favour of the 1% ultra-rich so that they can accrue huge fortunes in off-shore tax-havens etc etc.
I have written about this corruption and its horrendous consequences in greater depth in the Chapter 'House of Lordly Prostitutes' in my book on how Britain's democracy has been bought, The Prostitute State.
And that is the reason why I was standing there protesting with my banner last December and that is the reason why I will end up standing in the dock on Friday.
An important test of Tim Farron, and of British justice
It will be an interesting integrity test for the new Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, as to whether he will stick with the corrupt patronage system or respect the party's electoral procedures when he makes any new LibDem appointments to the Lords.
The case against me will also put British justice itself to the test. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service are in possession of video footage of the 'incident' which led to my arrest. I have never seen the video but knowing what actually took place, I'm certain that it would, if shown to the court, lead to collapse of the case against me.
However the police and CPS have refused to disclose this evidence to me, in a clear violation of the Attorney General's Guidelines On Disclosure, which state that
"Every accused person has a right to a fair trial, a right long embodied in our law and guaranteed under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). A fair trial is the proper object and expectation of all participants in the trial process. Fair disclosure to an accused is an inseparable part of a fair trial."
Specific examples include any material "casting doubt upon the accuracy of any prosecution evidence", "that might go to the credibility of a prosecution witness" or that "might support a defence that is either raised by the defence or apparent from the prosecution papers."
In an astonishing judgment that appears to be in complete violation of these guidelines, a District Judge this week refused my request for an order on the prosecution to disclose the video evidence. The matter will be raised again as it is impossible for me to receive a fair trial if such important evidence is withheld from the court.
Another development troubling me is that instead of having a District Judge presiding over the trial, my case will be heard by three lay magistrates.
One of my main defences is that the Greater London Authority was acting illegally to block freedom to assemble and protest in the public square that evening. Thus a deep knowledge of human rights and freedom to protest law will be required to give me a fair trial. I am not convinced that lay magistrates will be up to the task.
But while the legal noose tightens around my neck, what is clearly a corrupt, illegal and deeply anti-democratic practice - the sale of peerages by political parties at a going rate of some £300,000 a pop - goes uninvestigated and unprosecuted.
Truly, something is rotten in the state of Britain.
Donnachadh McCarthy is a founder of Stop Killing Cyclists, a member of Occupy Democracy, co-organiser for Occupy Rupert Murdoch Week, a former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats, and author of 'The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought'. He can be reached via his website 3acorns. Follow on Facebook.
Author's note: Any Occupy protester who would like a free ebook version of 'The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought', please - email me on contact AT 3acorns.co.uk.
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