Chalking trial: student cleared of police assaults but found guilty of criminal damage

Ms K Duff, pictured during her arrest on 16 July, has been cleared of assaulting two police officers. Photo: Hubert Libiszewski

Ms K Duff, pictured during her arrest on 16 July, has been cleared of assaulting two police officers. Photo: Hubert Libiszewski

• Ms K Duff ordered to pay £1,010 toward repair and prosecution costs

• Verdict follows trial in which video contradicted police testimony

A student protester arrested for chalking on University of London (UoL) property was today cleared of assaulting two police officers but found guilty of criminal damage.

Ms K Duff, 25, was found not guilty of assaulting special sergeant Liam Suter by kneeing him in the cheek as he and another officer attempted to handcuff her on 16 July last year inside the University of London Union (ULU). She was also cleared of assaulting police constable Siobhan O’Grady by kicking her in the leg as officers tried to lift her into a police van on Malet St.

However, Duff was convicted of criminal damage by judge Nina Tempia for writing “sick pay, holidays, pensions now” and “support the cleaners struggle” in chalk on UoL’s foundation stone as part of the 3Cosas campaign which supports outsourced university workers.

Judge Tempia sentenced Duff to three months conditional discharge and ordered her to pay £810 to cover the cost of repairs to the stone and £200 towards prosecution costs by the end of June.

The judgement, which was delivered today at Highbury Magistrates’ Court, follows a two-day trial earlier this month which saw video footage contradict the testimony of two police officers.

PC O’Grady had told the court Duff kicked her leg so hard she fell into a van door, but backtracked after the defence played footage showing she had made no contact with it. Judge Tempia today said PC O’Grady had “exaggerated her evidence” and added: “I do not accept Ms Duff’s leg movement was anything other than involuntary.”

Special constable David Inwood also had his testimony disputed by video. He claimed to have seen Duff assault PC O’Grady, but in footage he is seen positioned behind a van door that completely obstructs his view. Judge Tempia stated today she could not accept his evidence.

Explaining why she cleared Duff of assaulting sergeant Suter, judge Tempia said the student had been “acting in a passive and non-aggressive way”.

Delivering her guilty verdict for Duff’s criminal damage charge, judge Tempia said it had been “right and proper to prosecute”. She rejected Duff’s claim that she had chalked on the stone to advertise a 3Cosas protest the next day because no details of time or location were included.

Paul Nicholson-Lewis, then UoL’s deputy director of property, had called police after consulting with UoL managers, having been informed by a receptionist that someone was writing in chalk on the stone. No effort was made to deal with the matter internally, and sergeant Suter said Nicholson-Lewis was “very keen to press charges”.

Dan Cooper, ULU vice president, commented: “Shame on the management of the University of London! They instructed the arrest, and have carried through with this prosecution for one reason: to ward off and silence any effective opposition to the university’s discredited plans for staff and students. It shows that the university have lost the argument.”

Asked about Duff being found not guilty of the police assaults, Cooper said: “As I knew the police were lying it comes as no great shock for me.”

“I witnessed, as was caught on camera, that no assault was committed against the police. This act of violent police intrusion on to our campus – involving 20 or so officers violently arresting a student in their students’ union – despoils the spirit of dissent and critical thinking which ought to characterise any university.”

“ULU will be contributing towards the costs of the repairs and prosecution costs, and we encourage other campaigns and supporters to do the same,” he said.

A university spokesperson said it would not be appropriate to comment.

Read more:
Chalking trial: video contradicts second police account
Chalking trial: police officer falsely claimed to witness assault, court hears
Chalking trial adjourned after key CCTV footage not given to defence

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