24 January 2011

A sticky situation...

I can only surmise that I lack imagination or that I'd have a racier life if I was less of an abstruse, reptilian creature.  However, it is with deep regret that I note that in all my days, I've never adhered to any sort of building, public or private, place of business or charitable institution. As a consequence, a much longed for and lucrative career as a professional barnacle impressionist still eludes me.  Not so for some musically-minded environmental sorts, who literally stuck themselves to an Edinburgh bank last August. They explain the circumstances:

"On the 23rd of August 2010 we superglued ourselves to The Royal Bank of Scotland in Nicolson Street in Edinburgh. Meanwhile a group of our friends regaled customers and staff with a musical explanation of why RBS's will lead to climate catastrophe. The action was part of a day of action called by the Camp for Climate action.

The responses were varied. Some people were supportive, some were angry at RBS because of their role in the financial crisis, some joked about this being like a Fringe performance. Others simply wanted to use the bank. Our tone was always polite and friendly. After some time the bank decided to close, presumably not wishing their customers to be fully informed of the bank's destructive practices.

Despite the clearly 'fluffy' nature of action and clear evidence that RBS complicity in climate crimes, we have been charged with Breach of the Peace and will appear before the courts in January."

This soi-disant "Superglue 3" are up before the courts in Edinburgh this Friday, charged with committing a breach of the peace. It is my understanding that it is only the gluey clutch who actually stuck themselves to the bank's door who will meet the judicious gaze of one of Her Majesty's sheriffs. By contrast, their hullablooing, root-tooting and strumming associates have escaped the attention of the Procurator Fiscal and at most risk receiving a stern epistle from Lady Gaga complaining that they've murdered her song. The case promises to add another answer to that seemingly incorrigible source of questions, is X, Y, or Z a breach of the peace? Does it depend on the building? For example, would it unlawfully discombobulate the lieges if I sellotaped myself to a public monument, or if I gathered some chums and we nailed each other to bus stops, or if one stapled one's vitals to the Royal banner at Balmoral and fluttered from the flagpole (in both senses of the term)?

As many of you will know, in Scotland breach of the peace is a common law offence, defined as “conduct severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community” conjunctively interpreted. Those following this case and curious about the underlying law may be interested in this judgment of the Scottish High Court of Justiciary from 2004. It deals with five separate breach of the peace appeals, three of which arose in the context of public demonstrations, from the Scottish Parliament to naval bases in Helensburgh and Coulport.  Footage of this allegedly peace-breaching incident in Edinburgh is (I suspect only partly) captured in this contemporaneous recording of the sticky scene ...


  1. I'm at a loss to understand why they weren't charged with a homicide - they murdered that song.

  2. Have to say the chap on the bongos bares more than a passing resemblance to PC Crusty...

  3. Mere negligence is insufficient mens rea for murder, McGonagall. Perhaps the Lord Advocate wasn't convinced she could prove that the singsong represented wicked tuneless recklessness?

  4. Mark,

    Who the devil is this mysterious customer, PC Crusty?

  5. I too, am puzzled Lallands; and which bench does this Lady Gaga sit on? Barkingmadshire?

  6. I believe Gaga sits as the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Or was that Master of the Rolls? We know how much she enjoys a slice of streaky...

  7. As someone who's been fined (albeit reduced on appeal, mine was heard the day after the judgement you link to) for a supposed breach of the peace at Faslane I still find it laughable that the charge still sticks in a peaceful demonstration scenario.

    It would appear, after listening to my own appeal judgement, that the state doesn't actually have to present or hear evidence that you caused a breach, or fear, or alarm, the presiding Sherrif merely has to think your actions could lead to that in order to find guilt. No-one at my original hearing said they were placed in a state of fear or alarm, even the cops said they weren't in any way intimidated, they were in fact laughing and joking with me about my weight (it took six to carry me to their van, too many pies)

    My appeal took around 4 years to be heard, in that 4 years the test for the offence changed, so, when I was found guilty that was, in fact, an unlawful conviction, by the time my appeal was heard it wasn't!

    In the week my appeal failed a couple from Perth were convicted of dragging a girl (ex-girlfriend of the male in the couple) off the street, driving her round in a car and assaulting her, they were fined less than me!

    I also found a record of someone who was convited for breach that year because he shouted and swore at police officers as they tried to arrest him, he appealed and was successful, the appeal judge commented that if the police were intimidated by swearing they were in the wrong job!

    So, be peaceful, laugh and joke - Guilty. Shout and swear - not guilty

  8. Sorry, missed your comment, Dougie.

    Certainly, you won't often find me defending the clarity and certainty of the Scottish offence of breach of the peace. It is in a particularly difficult area, not least because it is amongst the most minor of minor offences and therefore the line between criminal conduct and non-criminalised mischief is often particularly fine. I've no idea how this band of three will fare before the sheriff, but if convicted, it may well be worth appealing, given the underlying uncertainty.