Richard Fox was savagely beaten by police officers on 21 March 2021, after he had fallen to the ground. Footage seen by the court showed Richard being kicked repeatedly while lying prostrate on the road. On Monday 22 May, Bristol Crown Court sentenced him to 2.5 years in prison, after he accepted a plea to violent disorder.
Richard is one of several defendants who have accepted plea bargains this month, rather than take the risk of going to trial. Defendants get time off their sentences for guilty pleas, while those who are found guilty after a trial are often given oppressively long sentences.
Plea bargains are where the Crown Prosecution Service offers to drop the more serious charge, in return for a guilty plea to a lesser charge. In a ‘criminal justice system’ with no justice, plea bargains can often be the lesser of two evils for those in court. Richard had originally been charged with riot, which carries double the maximum sentence to violent disorder.
The assault by the officers happened outside Bristol’s Bridewell police station, during the 2021 Kill the Bill demonstration.
A response to police violence
The 21 March demonstration was in response to the Tory government’s push to introduce the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill (which has now been passed). The PCSC Act criminalises many forms of protest, and is a direct attack on the lives of Travelling people.
The protest also happened in the context of the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens. On top of that, Mouayed Bashir and Mohamud Mohammed Hassan had died after being in police custody in Newport and Cardiff earlier that year.
When the demonstration reached Bristol’s Castle Park, protesters gave a speech over a megaphone, suggesting that the march continue on to Bridewell police station to protest what one of them described as “the encroachment of the police state into our lives”. However, when the protesters reached Bridewell, police officers attacked them. Cops deployed batons, dogs, and horses, and repeatedly used their shields as weapons against the crowd.
Richard Fox was in the crowd outside Bridewell. In many of the Bristol ‘riot’ cases, defence lawyers provided the court with a compilation of video footage showing the police violence on 21 March 2021. The footage shows that officers repeatedly kicked Richard. Cops also struck him with batons, and brought a police riot shield down on his head.
Richard’s sentencing comes on top of the 4.5 years of prison time handed to Daniel Ellis last week. It brings the total number of people sent to prison for the Bristol uprising to 35. Bristol Crown Court has now handed them a total of more than 112.5 years altogether.
The courts cannot break our solidarity
Bristol Anti Repression Campaign (BARC) is one of the groups organising political support and solidarity for the people in court. They made the following statement:
Leah Brenchley and Carmen Fitchett were also in court last week. Judge Patrick gave them both suspended sentences. BARC explained:
The group concluded:
‘Shocked and disgusted’
Justice for Bristol Protesters (JBP), a group organised by the families and friends of the Bristol uprising defendants, sent the Canary some reflections on the sentencings over the past weeks.
Jackie Ellis, mother of Daniel Ellis, said:
I am totally shocked and disgusted at the sentence my son Danny received on Friday. It is totally out of proportion to other non riot-related sentences that people receive for far worst crimes. The judge even admitted he didn’t do anything really violent and then sentenced him to four and a half years. It is an unbelievable sentence for a young person without a criminal record who got caught up in a peaceful protest that went wrong. My family feels totally failed by a justice system that is not fit for purpose.
Cathy, mother of Carmen Fitchett, added that:
We have waited more than two years from charge to sentencing and the wait has been horrible, the numerous delays leaving us feeling completely powerless and frustrated. The whole Criminal Justice system seems designed to disempower, confuse and exclude. If it wasn’t for the solidarity, support and guidance BDS/JBP have offered, the process would have been even worse. I have been stunned by the harsh and obviously politicised sentences handed out to young people for daring to stand up for the right to protest; having seen footage, and heard from people who were there, about how the police behaved that day, the Crown Prosecution Service’s response to our children is doubly twisted.
People in Bristol are raising funds for those sentenced. Click here to find out how to write to the people in prison, or donate to their crowdfunder here.
Featured image via Bristol Anti-Repression Campaign