Socialist Worker

Mounting evidence in student protest trial

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2275

Two young men have been standing trial accused of violent disorder on a demonstration against the rise in tuition fees on 9 December last year.

The police have accused brothers Andrew, 18, and Christopher Hilliard, 23, of pulling a police officer off his horse.

Andrew and Christopher deny the charges and have built a case to try to prove their innocence.

The case began on Monday last week and heard from prosecution witnesses, including PC Jeffrey Cowling, who came off his horse during the protest.

On Wednesday, Cowling was cross-examined by the defence. Some of the questioning was based around the saddle and girth of the horse.

Under questioning, Cowling told the court, “As you do the girth up on a horse it will fight, sometimes puffing out its stomach. But once it’s been ridden it will relax and the girth can be tightened one or two holes.”

Video footage was shown in court of what the defence said was PC Cowling slipping in his saddle before the encounter with Christopher and Andrew.

When the officer came off his horse the saddle moved round to the side of the horse. The defence said, “The saddle slipped left by 90 degrees. I suggest that wouldn’t have happened if the girth had been tightened.”

“No,” Cowling replied.

The court was also shown footage that shows Cowling engaging with the men before he came off his horse. Cowling said that he “pulled the hair upwards” of one of the men.

He said that he was trying to detain the boys when he came off his horse. The defence says that if he hadn’t been holding onto them he would have never fallen off.

Sections of Cowling’s initial statement, which was written on 9 January this year and is his only written account of the incident, were read out in court.

Defence barrister Carol Hawley said, “If you had been deliberately pulled off your horse you’d put it in your statement. Let’s look.”

Reading from the statement, she said, “He tried to pull away from me. The saddle slipped round. I then felt myself hit the floor.”

The case was expected to conclude on Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

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Tue 25 Oct 2011, 17:45 BST
Issue No. 2275
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