Gareth Epps tells how student Edd Bauer has spent the last week in prison for the unfurling of a banner decrying us for being traitors at our Conference in Birmingham last weekend.
Now, unfurling banners doesn’t actually hurt anybody. If Mr Bauer had been released on bail and unfurled a banner every day of our Conference, the worst that would have happened is that Conference attendees would have looked up and thought “what a prat”.
He has a track record for doing this sort of thing – but he hasn’t as far as I know, ever harmed anyone. It was that form that led to him being remanded when his co-accused were freed on bail so long as they kept out of Birmingham City Centre.
So we have a situation where somebody has been locked up for over a week when they actually pose no danger for the community. As well as the obvious implications for civil liberties, it costs a fortune. In Scotland, the annual cost of keeping someone in prison is something around £31000, or around £85 a night. So, nearly a grand of public money has been spent on locking this guy up for no good reason.
The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental part of a liberal society and I think we should be looking again at the laws which enabled this guy to be held in custody. What’s happened here has been a completely disproportionate use of the law and we need to have a presumption against locking non violent protesters up.