Friday, 19 March 2010

Circus becomes farce in the Peter Tierney trial

Today, the jurors in BNP "super-activist" Peter Tierney's trial for assault were discharged and it was announced that the trial would recommence with a new judge and jury on June 14th. The reason given for this was the emergence, yesterday, of an "undisclosed matter" which could prejudice the hearing of the case. It would now appear that the defence is trying to drag this matter out as long as possible on the basis of technicalities.

As members of Liverpool Antifascists gave out leaflets and engaged with the public outside the courtroom yesterday, the bulk of the evidence was heard inside the court. The Liverpool Daily Post detailed the proceedings;
A MEMBER of the BNP hit an anti-fascist protestor round the head with a camera tripod as the two sides clashed in Liverpool city centre, a court was told.

Peter Tierney, 52, denies striking campaigner Nick Barnett, saying it was “an accident”.

Tierney stood trial at Liverpool crown court yesterday after denying a charge of assault causing actual bodily harm.

John Dixon, prosecuting, told the court that on St George’s Day, Thursday April 23, last year, the BNP were handing out leaflets in Liverpool city centre.

Mr Dixon said an “informal political movement” calling themselves the Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism – of which Mr Barnett is a member – heard about the campaigning and headed into the city to hand out their own leaflets.

The two sides clashed verbally in St John’s Gardens, behind St George’s Hall.

Mr Barnett, 30, in his evidence said his group were shouting “Nazi scum” at the BNP, who were shouting back: “Get a wash, get a job”.

Mr Barnett said the BNP were moving toward the front of St George’s Hall and he went to run past them so he could hand out his leaflets first.

As he did, he said he felt something hit him on the back of the head.
When he turned around, Mr Barnett described seeing Tierney stood by him with the camera tripod in his hands. He went to hospital and had to have a cut to his head glued.

During his time on the witness stand, Tierney, of High Street, Hale Village, said the anti-fascists ran at them “screaming like banshees” and he only used the tripod as “a barrier” to stop himself and a friend being attacked as he felt they were in danger.

The jury of six men and six women watched CCTV of the incident numerous times throughout the day.
How damning the CCTV evidence was to Tierney's case, and how unconvincing his testimony was, was sumed up by one observer yesterday. His exact words were "Tierney is fucked." Hence, perhaps, why the first thing that Tierney's barrister (the rather appropriately named Mr Nutter) did today was move to discharge due to the aforementioned "undisclosed matter."

In the hallway outside the courtroom Tierney's entourage numbered roughly ten, including Liverpool organiser Peter Squire, and activists Steve Greenhalgh and Tony Ward. The latter, supposedly hit on the head with a claw hammer in Leigh last year, was remarkably free of any scarring from such a heavy and recent blow. Perhaps why the police issued at the time were only willing to say that "it does look like a hammer could have been used" and the case against a man accused of the attack was thrown out by the Crown Prosecution Service. Tierney's brother Andrew joined them once he realised that there were no "reds" to film or make clumsy attempts to intimidate outside the court this time.

Ultimately, the continuing farce of the court proceedings only confirms the stance of radical, working-class antifascism. Rather than relying on the state for protection and justice as liberal antifascists do, workers must take self-defence against fascists into their own hands and be willing to offer a physical barrier to the consistent and proven violence that the BNP and their ilk offer.

After briefing the BNP contingent on where the proceedings now stood, Tierney's barrister said "must go, chaps, I've got a boat to catch." The phrase "tally ho" would not have been amiss at the end of that sentence. This demonstrates the world that Tierney walks in. He has been a millionaire since the sale of Quiggins four years ago, for which workers at the centre got nothing but the loss of their job. He remains free for three months until the new trial begins, and in the meantime his bail conditions are unlikely to do him any financial harm.

What is vital now is that the BNP realise that this was no victory for them. Though being dragged on needlessly for coming on a year, the case remains important because Tierney is such a high profile member of Merseyside BNP and he is far from in a minority with his quick recourse to violence when opposed. In the meantime, especially with a General Election looming, there is much more immediate organisational work to be done, and antifascists will need to build up and maintain a strong antifascist consensus across Liverpool and the rest of Britain. But we cannot let this case be forgotten or allow it to get lost in the wash.

When Peter Tierney returns to court on the 14th June, Liverpool Antifascists will be there. Our sympathies and solidarity remains with the plaintiff in this affair, and we will not let our support wane. We ask that all those who claim to stand opposed to fascism and fascist violence to bear this in mind and to make themselves available when the trial returns to court again. If the BNP are able to dominate the streets or claim the initiative at this event or any other, it will already serve as a significant defeat for us. We cannot allow that to happen.