Technorati href="http://www.technorProfile Thinking Nurse: Oldham Trade Unionist Cleared Of Damaging Fascist Flowers

Thinking Nurse

This blog will reflect my interests in learning disabilities, nursing, nursing theory, philosophy and politics and my general interests in the arts and literature. (Nursing is an art as well as a science!) Philosophy and nursing have been intrinsically linked since the days of Socrates, his mother was a midwife, and taught him everything he knew!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Oldham Trade Unionist Cleared Of Damaging Fascist Flowers

I recemt;u reported on how a rather stupid prosecution had been launched against Martin Gleeson, secretary of Oldham TUC, after he protested when the far-right Britich National Party had gatecrashed a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Nazi holocaust. (which include many people with learning disabilities, who were among the first to be killed in the holocaust)

All charges against Martin Gleeson have now been dropped. Here is the press release from Oldham Trades Union Council on this issue:


Oldham TUC Secretary Martin Gleeson Vindicated after Criminal Damage Charge is Dropped

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided it is not in the public interest to proceed with a charge of causing criminal damage to a wreath laid by the BNP on Holocaust Memorial Day against Oldham TUC secretary Martin Gleeson.

The incident occurred on Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27th), when BNP prospective parliamentary candidate Anita Corbett laid a wreath alongside those laid by representatives of Oldham Borough councillors and MP's. This caused considerable upset among the participants in the ceremony, some of whom were of Jewish heritage and lost family members in the Nazi Holocaust. Despite the well-known history of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic statements from the BNP's most prominent figures in the late 1990's, the BNP representatives seemed oblivious to the significance of their actions, which were cynically designed to raise their "respectable" profile among the civic dignitaries and hence their appeal to the electorate.

The insult was heightened by the failure of Corbett to abide by the clear instructions made by the organisers, which were that organisations other than those specified on the programme should wait until the end of the ceremony before placing their tributes. Corbett effectively gatecrashed the official part of the ceremony, and laid the BNP wreath with its distinctive red, white and blue logo prominently displayed.

Martin Gleeson was present to lay a wreath on behalf of Oldham TUC and community anti-racist group Oldham United Against Racism. He was appalled by the actions of Corbett, and decided to make a protest by placing his wreath on top of the BNP one in such a way as to obscure the BNP logo from public view.

The police officer present - Chief Superintendent Keith Bentley - had made a point of reiterating the instructions of the organisers to the BNP representatives before the start of the ceremony, and yet took no action when Corbett blatantly contravened them. Amazingly, Bentley then responded to a complaint from BNP representative Mick Treacy by arresting Martin Gleeson for alleged criminal damage.

Mr Gleeson was held for seven hours at Oldham police station, and was eventually charged with causing criminal damage by recklessness to a wreath to the value of £20, belonging to Anita Corbett. At a subsequent hearing at Oldham Magistrates Court, Mr Gleeson entered a plea of not guilty: intending to argue that he had lawful excuse for his actions at the subsequent trial. In his view the BNP's presence and actions had caused alarm and distress to many of the people present, and his visible protest had in fact alleviated that distress.

This incident produced a wave of outrage from trade unions, anti-fascist groups and individuals throughout Europe and even from Canada and the USA. Several union General Secretaries including Derek Simpson of Amicus and TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber gave their full support, and Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Michael Todd was deluged with protest letters demanding that the charge be dropped.

After initially backing the prosecution, the CPS finally accepted the representations made by Bindman and Partners Solicitors that it was not in the public interest to proceed, and the charge has now been discontinued.

We find it perverse that Chief Superintendent Bentley - the most senior officer in the town - saw fit to take the course of action that he did, incurring many thousands of pounds of legal costs from public funds. Yet he failed to take any action against the instigators of the incident - the representatives of the BNP. This raises serious concerns about Greater Manchester Police's approach to community cohesion.

Oldham TUC and Oldham United Against Racism consider the discontinuance of the charge to be a vindication of Mr Gleeson’s actions, and we take great encouragement from this in our ongoing campaign to heal the divisions in our community.

(Contact us at info@oldhamtuc.org.uk )

www.oldhamtuc.org.uk


Thinking Nurse sends best regards to Mr Gleeson, and hopes that lessons will be learned from this expensive fiasco

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