DOZENS of people planning to support two defendants at Woolwich Crown Court today were forced to spend hours in freezing conditions after security refused them entry saying the courtroom was full despite being empty and the trial yet to begin.
When the retrial of student protesters Alfie Meadows and Zac King began at around noon, eleven of the 18 seats in the public gallery were empty.
Matthew Meadows, Alfie’s father, was livid at the interference to support for his son.
About half a dozen supporters, who refused to give up despite the wind and snow, were eventually let in after complaints were made to the court manager, who subsequently approached the judge to justify the move.
On the court manager’s behalf the judge said there were concerns over friends and family fighting for the limited number of seats and that he would not tolerate any trouble.
But there was no basis for such concerns given the same judge moved the previous trial (of the same case) from a high security courtroom to a regular one commending the defendants’ supporters for their good behaviour.
Security also attempted to stop a member of the press entering, but relented when challenged and getting ‘authorisation’.
Open justice is a key tenet of a democracy and demands trials are heard in public without good reason.
In 1998 Lord Woolf, during a judgment in the Court of Appeal, said: “[Open justice] is necessary because the public nature of proceedings deters inappropriate behaviour on the part of the court. It also maintains the public’s confidence in the administration of justice. It enables the public to know that justice is being administered impartially. It makes uninformed and inaccurate comment about the proceedings less likely.”
The jury were eventually sworn in with the prosecution to begin making its case tomorrow (Tuesday).