Here are some ideas for organising legal support for an action.
What are the aims of legal support?
To make sure everyone going on the action is prepared for arrest; to let people in custody know they have support; to get everyone released as soon as possible.
What do you need to do?
1. Ideally, everyone going on the action should have attended a legal workshop/received a legal briefing which should include information on arrest procedure, what happens at the police station, likely offences, likely outcomes, bail and first court hearing. Contact us for details if you want a workshop or briefings for your group.
2. Before the action make sure you have: -police station /court phone numbers -friendly solicitor on call to attend police station if needed -people who don’t plan to get arrested to help give support -vehicles and drivers to collect people from police station on release -legal briefings and bust cards to hand out
3. Hand out bust cards on the day of the action: These should have the legal support phone number and the number of the solicitor who is on call for the action together with some brief legal details. See attached example of a bust card. Get people to write the phone numbers of the solicitor and the support team on their arms/legs.
4. Once the arrests start to happen: Get as much information as you can from the police/legal observers including: -name and address and where they are being held -what they have been arrested for, have they been charged, what with, if not are they going to be charged, how long will they be held, are they going to court Also ask then to pass on messages to those being held. Offer to help verify addresses or to contact solicitors.
If there are a lot of people arrested it may be helpful to draw up a big chart with columns, that can be filled in as information is received about each person-name and address, where arrested, when arrested, what for, which police station held at, time charged, what charged with, bailed or held over, which court, time released.
5. Building Support for those in the cells: If people are held for more than a few hours, or if the police are particularly nasty then think about ways of building support for those in the cells; -organise a vigil outside the police station.
Get people to hand in messages, food, books, clothes cigarettes etc to those in the cells. -get supporters to phone the police. -get the press to call the police. -get a friendly lawyer to visit, even if those arrested don’t want legal advice this may be the only type of visitor allowed in to see them, they can pass messages, bring food, cigarettes, check person is OK etc.
6. When people are released: -make sure you keep in touch with the police so that you know when this is going to happen. -arrange lifts home for the people released from the cells. -arrange people to welcome the people released with hugs, food etc.
7. If people are held and taken to court: -get people to go and support. -arrange lifts home for people released after court hearing. -ask a friendly lawyer to phone and talk to them, even if want to represent themselves they may want to talk through the procedure with someone.