8 Mar 2013

Student protest ‘hero’ Meadows acquitted

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

The last of the trials of students involved in the 2010 violent protests has ended with the acquittal of Alifie Meadows, whose skull was fractured by a police baton during the demonstration.

A jury at woolwich Crown Court took just a couple of hours to clear both him and another, Zac King, of violent disorder following a three week trial. Alfie’s mother Susan Meadows told Channel 4 News it’s a huge relief, “Two years of agony are finally over. It’s just fantastic”.

Her son Alfie said “Today’s result is a vindication for the right to protest and all those who’ve been subjected to police brutality. Those who are struggling against cuts and austerity should not live in fear of criminalisation.

“It’s unforgivable that we and our families have had to wait two years and endure two trials to clear our names. I’m very grateful for the solidarity I’ve received from so many.”

Of the 250 arrested over the four anti tuition fees demonstrations more than 60 were charged with violent disorder, which carried a five year prison term. But figures suggest less than 50 per cent were convicted of the offence, significantly lower than the CPS average for all cases of 80 per cent.

Defence lawyers accused the Crown Prosecution Service of a deliberate policy of over-charging because violent disorder carries a maximum five year prison term. CPS deny this claim.

The 22-year-old philosophy student was accused of taking part in violent clashes with police at the fourth student protest against tution fees on the night of December 9th 2010. CCTV and police footage was shown to jury alleging he was part of a group eganged in a sustained assault on police.

He said he witnessed police attack and had seen other demonstrators being hit and crushed in one corner of Parliament Square.

The jury were told the police used aggressive tactics to herd protestors into an area where there was no way out in a policy described as kettling.

Footage caught Mr Meadows with his hand on a railing which was being forced against a police line. Mr Meadows explained his aim was was to defend other people and he had no intention of hurting or injuring any police offcier and in doing was clubbed over the head with a police baton.

He said; “one police officer was waving his baton above his head, I turned my back, then felt a huge blow.”

The student required emeregncy brain surgery. An Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry was put on hold until the trial process was over. It said tonight it was making with Mr Meadows lawyers about reopneing the inquiry.