If you are an active sab or have attended any sort of demonstration it is likely that you will have been told what to do if you get arrested. You are probably sick of the phrase 'say nothing alright', however it might be that there are things you are unsure of or don't understand. This may seem to be a very patronising article, however it is very important that everybody involved in direct action knows the score, making a mistake could cause you or someone else a load of problems.
Unfortunately you cannot tell before a sab or a demonstration exactly what's going to happen or how the police will react to the days events. You can however be prepared and by using your head help yourself and those around you.
Before you even arrive in the area make sure you have the number of a good, reliable solicitor, you may think you know what to do but the ability to contact someone who is fully trained and knows what the police can and can't is very useful. Also if you are part of a group tell everybody (especially new sabs) what to do.
On the whole, communication with the police usually means stress, try to keep confrontations to a minimum. Try to keep ahead of officers present, this will allow you valuable time to sab unhindered. On rare occasions the old bill might actually try and help but most of the time they are after your details, they will try and take photographs or ask to search you.
Conversations may allow them the chance to lay down the law e.g. 'don't stray from footpaths and do not disrupt the hunt', and as a result they will consider this a warning which could cause problems later if arrests are made.
It is well worth remembering that - if the police cannot catch you they cannot arrest you. It is not resisting arrest to run away from police officers (belting them whilst they try to handcuff you is though!). If you have been pinpointed or singled out, swap clothes with someone who is dressed differently. It may be a good idea to leave the area or at least keep a low profile.
If the police pull out all the stops and fly in a helicopter with heat-seeking equipment try and hide under pylons, bridges or underground bunkers, it may sound bizarre but sabs have eluded cops in this way.
Throughout sabs and demos try to stick with people you know so that if you get nicked the rest of your group can be informed and arrangements can be made about meeting up with you upon your release from police custody.
If you see someone being arrested try to take photos or video footage of what is going on. This can greatly help a sab's defense if the case goes to court. Try also to write down information such as the time, who was present, the numbers of arresting officers and a brief description of events as soon as possible after the arrest has been made.
At The Police Station
As part of your preparation, it might be a good idea to get clued up on your rights whilst in police custody. Should the police 'forget' or delay any thing you are entitled to, prior knowledge may help you remind them. For example you are entitled to adequate food and drink, medical attention and access to toilets and washing facilities. Make sure you exercise your rights and make a note if the police make things difficult.
Phone your solicitor immediately and let someone know you have been arrested, they might let you phone someone yourself but this is not always the case.
Police stations are designed to be intimidating and being locked in a cell can be scary, but try to keep calm.
If you are Interviewed
Hopefully you will have been told by your solicitor what to say in an interview. It is considered helpful to say something along the lines of (for an aggravated trespass charge) "I have not done anything illegal, I was not aware that I was trespassing or interfering with the hunt. I do not wish to make a statement or answer any questions".
Solicitors reckon that this is worth saying if the case goes to court, considering that response more favorable than saying nothing at all. GET THIS BIT RIGHT THOUGH! Agree with your solicitor beforehand exactly what to say.
From then on say nothing, answer 'no comment' to every last question they ask. Police officers will use various techniques to get you talking, don't forget the golden rule and just keep quiet. Mr Nasty may try and scare or pressure you into answering questions, PC Nice might mention that he/she is sympathetic (and daughter is veggie etc) and if you just let them know what went on you'll be allowed to go. One trick is to chat to you before hand about your job or football - in the hope that you will relax and chat on even when the tape is recording. Being persistent or just asking questions that seem irrelevant are other tricks applied to try and trip you up so that you spill the beans. Trying to explain yourself may seem like an option if you think 'well I haven't done anything wrong so I'll just explain what I was doing'. DO NOT. If they are intending to charge you they will no matter what you say - talking will only give them the potential for more evidence. Remember 'Everything you say will be taken down and used AGAINST you'. Save the talking for the court case.
Only in certain circumstances should you ever consider accepting a caution.
If you have a number of charges outstanding it may be a good idea to accept one, also if you are leaving the country (and intend to return again) it may cause you problems to go whilst you are halfway through a case.
Once again consult your solicitor for advice. However appealing it might seem to accept a caution and get the whole business wrapped up it is still admitting guilt. If you get arrested again a caution will be brought up and will definitely cause you extra strife.
Cautioning people for an offence will allow the police to arrest again in future for the same thing. If the case is instead taken to court and the sab is found not guilty (or the charges are dropped during the proceedings) the police might think twice about trying the same thing again.
In order to keep tabs on sab activity it is likely that the police will take your fingerprints, DNA sample (mouth swab or hair) and photograph.
Regardless of whether you have committed an offence or not, fingerprints, photographs and DNA samples will be taken and put on the polices 'extremist' files along with far right and religious cult groups.
Whilst police officers can use force to take fingerprints and DNA samples, people in custody have covered their faces when having a photo taken. This gives cops the right hump and it is possible to get done for obstruction so it's up to you what you do here.
Getting arrested for something however can prove a point. Sabs get nicked for offences such as cruelty to animals, talking on mobile phones or waiting outside a hunt's kennels. You might feel that being threatened with arrest for something as ridiculous as those mentioned above is worth exposing. If for example you get warned about carrying a whip you can either
a) give in and lose the whip but never be able to use one again or
b) allow yourself to be arrested hoping that charges will be dropped (or that the arresting officers will be told off and you'll be allowed to go) and that the police will realise that a whip is not an offensive weapon and allow you to carry one.
Ask yourself whether getting nicked will be worthwhile or a futile waste of time. Consider if the police are being out of order or if there are grounds for arrests to be made. A lot depends on the police force as well.
What to do When Released
The advice of the current legal officer is stuff your face, get rip-roaringly drunk, avoid trouble/getting in fights/run ins with policemen, listen to Conflict, Celine Dion or Ice-T or something anti-police, watch 'Riot Police' the video, phone your mum and say that the sab went really well and that everything is O.K. Keep on sabbing.
This article was written with the help of practising solicitors. It is only meant to be a basic guideline and not a hard and fast bible for every arrest. Its purpose is to stress the importance of being prepared and making sure that you know (not half know or think you know) exactly what to do if you get nicked.