Edward Woollard: Examples Need to be Made

Derek Suede, 14 January 2011

Categories: Protest | Police | Education | Justice |

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On the 10th November 2010, thousands of students gathered in central London to protest against the rise in tuition fees. As the protest developed, an apparent breakaway group gained access to Tory HQ, defacing and vandalising the Conservative headquarters. Some of the students made their way to the roof and proceeded to run amuck. One of these students, Edward Woollard, 18, released an empty fire extinguisher from the roof (seven floors up). As it fell to the ground the next two years and eight months of his life was decided.

As Woollard travelled home to Hampshire from London, he may have had the realisation that he had committed an idiotic act. He may have hoped that the BBC and other media outlets would not solely concentrate on his actions, but also on those of the Metropolitan Police force, who had taken a heavy handed approach to a number of protesters. He would have been wrong.

Alfie Meadows is one of the protesters who has said that he was assaulted by the police (taking a police baton to the skull at the 9th December protest). Alfie's mother has said that police also denied her son, who was suffering from severe head injuries (bleeding in the brain), access to hospital. It was reported on the BBC website that these allegations were false, although no statement is visible on the same article from the ambulance driver, who Mrs. Meadows says witnessed the refusal of entry to the hospital.

When political activist and blogger Jody McIntyre was hit by police with batons, removed from his wheelchair and dragged across a road in central London, the police brutality had reached a point of serious mal-practise. But unlike Alfie Meadows, video footage was distributed on the internet of McIntyre's ill-treatment. Yet the media failed to give the same attention to the disgraceful mistreatment of a peaceful protester by police as it did to Woollard, despite both video and eye-witness evidence of McIntyre’s assault.

Two years and eight months is the sentence Woollard received from Judge Geoffery Rivlin QC. Interestingly, the BBC quoted the judge as saying, "the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can". This comment came from the same judge who sentenced Andrew Lintern to 3 years in jail for 31 counts of sexual assaults against minors, one of whom was a 17-month old child. The BBC however, failed to draw on this comparison. This isn't really surprising, when you take into account the BBC News website fails to produce any search results on Thomas Alexander Symonds, who has been calling for Judge Geoffery Rivlin QC to sit a polygraph test in respect to the outcome of his court case in 1981, in which Geoffery Rivlin QC has now had his closing statement removed from the record.

The government knows that when protests turn violent, they historically prove to win public appeal. I do not condone violent protests, yet civil disobedience can ultimately lead to the protesters’ cause coming to a swift resolution. A prime example of this is the civil disobedience of the Suffragettes, who set fires, smashed windows, and got up to all kinds of skulduggery to bring the plight of women's voting rights to the nation. Another example would be the poll tax riots, but the final outcome of these protests was just the appeasement of the people for long enough for them to return home. The people soon discovered, that the poll tax was still in effect, but re-badged as Council tax. That story is for another time however.

These examples may explain why Woollard received such a harsh sentence for an act that was in reality victimless. The press have turned an over-excited teenager into a “menace to society”. When media-coverage distorts the reality of events such as the student protests, highlighting the case of a few individuals and ignoring the greater context of discontent, historic events are deplorably subverted to serve the interests of those they were intended to oppose.

Categories in which this article appears: Protest | Police | Education | Justice |

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