When Wombles attack

From an important House of Lords case (R v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire ex p Laporte) on the right to protest today some excerpts from the speeches follow.  In summary the case indicates that anti-war protestors had a right to peaceful protest and that the police over-reacted by arresting 120 people on the way to a protest .  The excerpts warrant quoting because the organisation the police were concerned about was the Wombles.  This leads to some wonderfully incongruous judicial statements with editorial commentary courtesy of a fan of Elisabeth Beresford.

Per Lord Bingham (at para 6)

“The demonstration was advertised by Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors, CND, Bristol Stop the War Coalition, Disobedience Against War, and also the Wombles, who similarly wore white overalls. Various websites, including those of Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors and the Wombles, advertised coaches available for transport to the base, from London and other places. The Wombles website [editorial note: I understand from the context that the official Wombles website was not used] on 11 March posted a message couched in violent terms.”

At para 10 from the police log:

“Based on intelligence received it is understood that 3 coaches and a van are en route from LONDON carrying items and equipment to disrupt the protest today and gain entry to the air base. The protestors are the ‘Wombles’.”

At para 11

“An officer of the Metropolitan Police identified and recorded the presence of 8 Wombles members.”

Explaining why the protestors were arrested the following reasons were given (at para 13)

“My decision not to allow the coaches to proceed to Fairford to protest was based upon: 

(i)  The history of the Wombles and Disobedience Action Groups – I was satisfied that hardcore members were on the coaches [editorial note: hardcore Wombles seem as disturbing as hardcore Calvin and Hobbes.]

It is argued by counsel for the police at para 54 that

“Given the intelligence known to the police about the Wombles, the items found on the coaches and the unwillingness of the passengers to acknowledge ownership of these items or (in many cases) give their names [editorial note: it is not clear if these are traditional Wombles or new WOmbles.  While all could identify Bungo, Tobermory, Tomsk, Wellington, Great Uncle Bulgaria, Madame Cholet, and Orinocco (as well as the mighty MacWomble) the newer Wombles are more difficult to name.], Mr Lambert was entitled to find that the 120 passengers had a collective intent to cause a breach of the peace.”

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry notes at para 87 that

“From the internet and, presumably, from other information, the police anticipated that the London coaches would bring members of an anarchist organisation known as the Wombles. On the day of the demonstration, both before and after the coaches arrived at Lechlade, Chief Superintendent Lambert and others seem therefore to have used “the Wombles” as shorthand for the coaches and their passengers. At 10.45 am, long before the coaches arrived, Mr Lambert decided that if any offending articles were found on the coaches – as a few were – the coaches were to be turned round and sent back to London. If all of the passengers on the coaches had been Womble anarchists determined on violence and a breach of the peace by them had been imminent, a decision to stop the coaches from proceeding would have been an appropriate way of preventing the breach of the peace and protecting the rights of those who wanted to protest peacefully at Fairford. In fact, however, only eight known Wombles were identified on the coaches [see earlier editorial note – perhaps then these were the traditional Beresford and Cribbins Wombles not the modern Wombles] and, it appears, most of the passengers had nothing to do with them and were the reverse of violent by nature. It may be that police thinking about the number of actual Wombles on the coaches was affected by the fact that many of the peaceful protesters were wearing white overalls (to represent themselves as Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors), which were similar to the uniform of the Wombles [editorial note: from what I recall only Tomsk and madame Cholet wore white overalls, and even in Tomsk’s case it was more of a vest.  Tobermory however wore a black uniform, hence the confusion]. However that may be, the fact that some of those on the coaches declined, lawfully, to give their names to the police was no sufficient basis for concluding that they would be associated with any violence.”

Rather than arrest 120 people Lord Rodger suggested a targeted anti-Womble approach at para 89 (with Lord Carswell suggesting similar action at para 105)

“One less drastic step which Mr Lambert might have taken would indeed have been to allow the coaches to go on to Fairford where the forces assembled to deal with an anticipated demonstration of up to 10,000 protesters would surely have been able to prevent any breach of the peace which the eight known Wombles were planning. Another possibility would have been to target the known Wombles on the coaches and to remove them at Lechlade.”

About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
This entry was posted in remember you're a womble, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When Wombles attack

  1. giantweazle says:

    It would appear that the right to be “wombling free” has been revoked. I propose an alliance with the Tweenies and Fimbles, that’ll sort the cops out.

    • I am deeply uncomfortable with any action involving the Fimbles – FImbo is not the sharpest fimble in Fimble Valley and Baby Pom strikes me as potentially ineffective in a rumble – although his trolley could potentially cause some minor damage. Roly Mo is a different matter – he has a tactical mastery (witness his strategic placing of books in his library) which suggests that as a mastermind for any planned protest he should be in charge.

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