Friday, 5 February 2016

Judge sends anarchist activist to police cells for refusing to take off his hat!

                Anti-fracking activist - Adam Whelan

English history is replete with examples of political radicals who have refused to doff their cap to those in authority. Refusal of what was called "hat honour", was seen as a badge of English radicalism. The early Quakers refused to doff their caps because it was their belief that all people were equal in the eyes of God. When the digger, Gerrard Winstanley, appeared before the lord general of the army, General Fairfax, in 1649, he refused to take off his hat saying that Fairfax was "but their fellow creature." Nearly two-hundred years later, when the chartist, Joseph Rayner Stephens, refused to take off his hat to a visiting magistrate in Chester Castle in 1838, where he was serving an eighteen-months prison sentence, the magistrate knocked it off his head in spite of him being an English gentleman. Although most folk nowadays, rarely wear hats, it seems that refusing to take your hat off today, is still guaranteed to rile some people in certain quarters.

On Monday, District Judge Mark Hadfield, sitting at the Manchester and Salford District Magistrates Court, ordered that 25-year-old anarchist activist, Adam Whelan, of no fixed address, be taken to the court police cells after he refused to take his hat off as he was leaving court. Mr Whelan had attended court to support two anti-fracking activists from Barton Moss, who were later convicted of 'aggravated trespass'. Although Mr Whelan had been sat in the public gallery, hatless, for over an hour, Judge Hatfield demanded that he take off his hat as he was leaving the court. When he refused to do so, the Judge called for security and he was told that if he didn't return to court, he would be arrested for contempt of court. 

In court, the Judge asked why he'd refused to take off his hat. Whelan replied: "that it was blatantly obvious to him that the Judge had more respect for corporations than he did for land, air, or water, and that he didn't respect that."  The Judge then ordered that Mr Whelan be taken to the police cells while he decided whether to charge him with contempt of court. After four hours in custody, Mr Whelan was brought back to court and asked once again why he'd refused to take off his hat. He told the Judge that he had been annoyed with his judgement and had been leaving the court, when he'd been asked to remove his hat. Judge Hadfield then told him that he had three options available to him: to impose a fixed penalty; to sentence him to one-months imprisonment or to take no further action. He then told Whelan that in this instance, he would be taking no further action as he was of the view, that four hours in the police cells was sufficient time for Whelan to reflect on his actions.

We understand that the learned Judge Hadfield, as something of a reputation for being rather severe on defendents in fracking cases and on a previous occasion, did remand one activist to prison, who was subsequently found not guilty. Although the Judge told Mr Whelan that he was merely upholding court etiquette and that it wasn't personal, one cannot help but feel that this is nothing but supercilious nonsense, from a Judge, who one suspects, was simply throwing his legal weight about in order to intimidate and pull rank, on a principled young man, with long hair. 

Mr Whelan told Northern Voices that he wouldn't be making a complaint about the Judge. We gather that when he was asked by the custody officer why the Judge had sent him to the police cells and had replied because he wouldn't take his hat off, the coppers found this so hilarious that they fell about laughing.

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