The Rossport Solidarity Camp is under threat from dangerous GardaÍ who are out of control.
Roadblocks / Checkpoints were set up by Gardaí a few hundred metres either side of Rossport Solidarity Camp, before dawn this morning, to intercept campers on their way to the picket at the Bellanaboy Refinery site. A similar roadblock happened last week also, though this morning's checkpoint was more aggressive with 8 police in two Garda vehicles, ‘quoting’ the Road Traffic Act and demanding names, addresses and dates of birth from drivers and all passengers not previously 'accounted for'. Video and still cameras were also used to film and photograph all involved. Sgt. Conor O'Reilly has been patrolling around the area all day accompanied by a number of Paddywagons, surveying campers and stopping other camp vehicles. Numbers of Gardaí have been seen by local residents today in Glengad and across the bay in Rossport with cameras looking for a view into the camp.
Local Shell to Sea campaigners have expressed concern for the safety and integrity of the camp, and expect that Shell's cops will try to 'plant' something on the camp to justify an aggressive raid. These anticipated attempts to criminalise the camp could also be seen as an effort to force the local Shell to Sea campaign to disown those who have worked so hard in solidarity with them and in cooperation with the national and international Shell to Sea campaign.
'Frontline', The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, have been notified of our concerns and some legal support/advice has been requested from them. See http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/about/ .
The Rossport Solidarity Camp, has always functioned to the highest standards of political responsibility, environmental protection and non-violence. The camp has strict guidelines, which includes a policy of ‘NO DRUGS & NO ALCOHOL, a rule which has always been upheld without exception. The camp has been an inspiration to many people involved in social justice activism who have travelled from all around the world.
And … IT IS HOME to those who have given their all in support of this great campaign.
For those who are coming to Erris at any stage to support the campaign, you may wonder how to react or what to say if or when you are approached, questioned or harassed by Police who have shown over the last number of weeks their propensity to abuse their power to harass, assault and ‘gather intelligence’ under the ‘colour of law’. Opinion is slightly divided here. Should you stand up for your rights, question and challenge the Gardaí on every injustice, risking more attention from out of control police or should you ‘cooperate’ for ‘easy passage’ to wherever you’re going, jeopardising your privacy and constitutional rights. These are personal choices.
Below is some legal opinion from the Black Pope, given today. The Road Traffic Act is too large to publish here, but can be researched online. See RTA 1961-2004, 1961 and 1994 are the two major ones. Beware … the cops might just start ‘quoting’ another act. In that case … Ask Questions and look for ‘chapter and verse’. Use a dictaphone to record conversations, or phones and cameras etc. Do not let any cop steal your property ‘for evidence’.
BLACK POPE'S ADVICE.
Before insisting strongly on your rights as outlined below, it is a good idea to be 100% certain the vehicle is in reasonably good condition and you have valid licence + insurance to drive it. Tax disc, tyres, headlights and indicators are the first things will be checked. If all not in order, the best tactic might be to ‘play soft’.
If a purported garda is not in uniform (including hat on head) or producing a photo warrant card identifying himself (which you are entitled to read), you do not have any legal obligation to co-operate.
It is not the business of any Garda where you are driving from or to, or the purpose of your trip. These are merely nosey questions you are entitled to ignore.
Put the onus on the Garda to explain under what provision of law he
1. stopped you
2. makes any further demands
Use audio/video recording devices if you expect any dispute to arise.
No-one is obliged by ROAD TRAFFIC ACT (RTA) to exit or open a vehicle in any way. All doors locked and driver’s window down 6mm is enough to permit verbal communication and/or passage of licence etc. This handy physical barrier makes any ensuing discussion much more relaxed (for vehicle occupants) and difficult (for the garda).
Breath-testing is now permitted randomly, so that might have to become a 13mm window slit to get the nozzle in through. A garda’s fingers are generally believed to be about 25mm in diameter and covered in fur.
There is no provision for the searching OF a vehicle under the RTA – in the case of an accident involving an injury, gardai may ask a judge for a warrant to search a place or premises FOR a vehicle. Do not ‘voluntarily consent’ to any search. You are not obliged to wait while they go look for a search warrant.
Other people in the vehicle are not obliged by any provision of the Road Traffic Acts to give any information at all about themselves, except, in the case where the driver absolutely refuses to identify himself, his name, if they are asked for it.
If a garda is insisting, ask under what provision of law he makes such a demand. If he makes up some rubbish under the RTA refuse to co-operate and tell him he will be held personally liable at civil and criminal law for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment if he abuses his authority further.
LICENCE + INSURANCE – DRIVER(S)
This section applies equally to any DRIVER with a full licence in the vehicle for the purpose of ACCOMPANYING a LEARNER DRIVER on a provisional licence.
If your licence has a place where it should be signed by the holder in order to come into effect, then make sure to sign it, otherwise it may be technically invalid.
If you produce your licence and it is found to be unsigned, you may be lawfully required to sign a book for the purposes of verification.
The law does technically say you are ‘required’ to carry driving licence while driving vehicle.
The 1961.s40 law was controversially changed in 1994.s25 to give discretion to gardai to prosecute you ‘for failure to produce licence there and then’, or ask that you produce it within 10 days.
However, it appears that the requirement does not translate into any legal obligation which is actually enforced or enforcable - the practise after 1994 has remained the exact same and people are not prosecuted for failing to carry their licence at all times, just for failing to have one at all or produce it at a named garda station within 10 days.
Still, this is no guarantee you will not be the first ‘test case’, but does seem to indicate the provision might not withstand a robust legal challenge (on grounds of constitutional right to free movement, introduction of compulsory ID-card by stealth, etc), so the authorities would prefer not to put it to the test.
If a garda is being ratty and insisting on this point, ask “Are you prepared to break the standing orders from the DPP’s office that such prosecutions are not to be brought if the person from whom the licence is demanded is willing to produce it at a nominated garda station within 10 days for inspection?” Such a directive probably does (or will be understood by the garda to) exist. If you pre-empt any demand by volunteering production within 10 days, 95% chance that will short-circuit any dispute on the matter.
If you do not have licence with you, you may be asked for and are legally obliged to give your correct name and address. If you refuse this information, you may lawfully be arrested.
You nominate a station (anywhere in the country) where you undertake to produce licence (and/or insurance if requested) within 10 days. When you do go, always bring a witness, ask for the member in charge (MIC), let them read whatever you are producing, and ensure that a certificate of production be provided in return, according to RTA 1961.s40.1.D
Keep this cert document very carefully, it is your proof and defence against any later charges the gardai may decide to bring through sheer forgetfulness or spite. If the MIC refuses to issue the certificate, ask for the superintendant and make a written complaint co-signed by your witness. Then keep a copy of that instead.