Paul Lesniowski was arrested at a peaceful demonstration outside the EDO MBM arms factory in Brighton on Wednesday of last week. EDO’s weapons were used in the attack on Iraq. Paul is accused of breaching a controversial injunction limiting protests at the site.
Paul was kept overnight before being brought before a judge and remanded in custody. He was finally released on bail on Monday of this week after spending four days in Lewes prison.
Paul attended the demonstration as a legal observer in a marked yellow jacket.
He was arrested for filming a security guard at the site. Employees of EDO MBM are “protected” under the terms of injunction.
However neither the security guard, nor the cameraman he brought with him, would identify themselves to the protesters.
Andrew Becket from Smash EDO, one of the campaign groups involved in the weekly protests outside the factory, said, “This is the first time that anyone has been remanded using an injunction of this kind.
“Normally it is used as a threat. It’s obvious that the police are behind this, that they are pushing for a prosecution.
“They are trying to use this as a test case — to make an example out of Paul. The guy who we now know is employed by the security company was being threatening towards the protesters, and he wouldn’t identify himself.”
Initially EDO requested a large “exclusion zone” for protesters covering the whole of the industrial estate where the factory is located. They and Sussex police also wanted to limit demonstrations to two and a half hours, with less than ten people, who had to remain silent.
The judge who heard the original case refused to impose these terms in the injunction.
Paul has requested that his case be dealt with in the crown court, so that it is heard by a jury.
He said, “Obviously it’s a shock that somebody can be arrested during a peaceful protest. It’s another step towards the criminalisation of protest.
“I was arrested under the 1997 protection from harassment act on which the injunction was based.
“Because it’s a civil injunction a civil burden of proof triggers a criminal charge.
“It’s very complicated — but it means that people can be arrested with a lower burden of proof, although that changes once you get to court, which is perhaps why there is a tendency not to push for a trial.”
Andrew Becket said, “We have been advised by our lawyers that any protest could see us arrested. But there’s no way they will stop us protesting.
“There have been 15-20 of us outside the prison every day protesting to get Paul released.
“We will also be back outside the factory to continue our weekly protest. There’s a real risk that people may be arrested but it’s a risk many of us are willing to take. We will not back down.”