Phil Gusack was next. The lynch-pin of the prosecution evidence was Mr Jones, who said he had seen Gusack ‘making palm trees from a substance which I found upon later examination to be cardboard’.
The ‘Ten’ on trial
The day before the trials started, the Sunday Times gave a boost to the morale of the 10 by revealing that one of the Board of Discipline, Dr Francis Stock, had just been appointed V.C. of the University of Natal, South Africa.
At 9.30 on Monday, John Aspinall’s first act was to protest vehemently at having such an obvious racist judging him. He also contested the presence of Irene Collins, History lecturer, who had previously signed a petition condemning the occupation. The first objection was refused, the second ignored.
The prosecution barrister, Stannard, hired at great expense, opened his case by giving a 45 minute-long description of the events leading up to the occupation. As witnesses, he called some of the porters and security guards plus Pugh, the security officer, who had submitted written evidence. When Aspinall asked to cross-examine the witnesses on these statements the prosecution decided to withdraw them.
Aspinall then protested that, since the Board had clearly read them, they could hardly be withdrawn. He was informed that the Board had ‘looked’ at them, but not read them. The Board refused to elucidate how it was possible to look at papers without in fact reading them. Altogether, the prosecution’s evidence took over 5 hours to present and Aspinall was repeatedly prevented from following certain lines of questioning, or from taking legal advice on certain irregularities. The Board, after recess, then declared that the defence could have one hour to present their case. Eventually, because of Aspinall’s protests, he was allowed one and a half hours, but numerous witnesses were ruled irrelevant or out of order before the Board had even seen them.
When the Board had had enough, Aspinall was told that he had 10 minutes to prepare his summing up and ten minutes to present it. Ten minutes in which to sum up seven hours of evidence! At the end of his summing up, Aspinall attempted to read out a political statement, jointly agreed upon by all ten on trial (read it here). He was constantly interrupted, and eventually was unable to finish it.
The Board retired to make its verdict, and, surprise, surprise, was out for about 45 seconds to find Aspinall guilty. Roy Butler, the Board’s secretary, came downat the end of the trial (about 7 pm) and told everyone to turn up at the time they had previously been alloted. In other words, things were going to be speeded up.
The next trial was Andy Black’s and the prosecution were clearly in more of a hurry. Only two witnesses were called, and the introductory statement was drastically cut down. The prosecution evidence included reference to one new incident where Black was alleged to have ‘roughed up’ a porter in order to get his ‘vouchers’ (?!) off him. This occurence was entirely mythical. Black merely called witnesses to disprove the more absurd of the prosecution’s allegations, and then proceeded to read out the statement. He was interrupted and finally stopped by the Board who said that he could read it in mitigation after the verdict. Even when he did, he had to read over the interruptions of Williams, the Chairman (ironically, a former member of the Communist Party).
That afternoon, the Board got a move on and got rid of two more victims. Only one witness was called against Andy Burton, and his only witness, HH Burchnall, refused to attend. Williams at one stage inadvertently referred to Burton as ‘the prisoner’. Announcing the verdict, the Board congratulated Burton, a first-year student, on his moderation and courtesy, and said that they didn’t regard him as having ‘a high degree of responsibility’. Four days later, with their ingratiating smirks barely off their faces, they sentenced him to a year’s suspension.
Richard Davies’ trial was a little longer, and the prosecution seemed chiefly concerned with trying to prove that people paid more attention to him because he used to be President. Davies claimed that possibly the reverse was true, especially among the left-wing elements! It was Davies’ birthday, but the Board didn’t give him any presents.
Pete Cresswell went in on Wednesday morning and at long last HH Burchnall made an appearance. He only testified about the incident on the stairs where Cresswell was alleged to have ‘forcibly’ prevented him from reaching his office. His version of this was wildly different from those of other prosecution witnesses, and three defence witnesses were called to prove their version of the incident was absolute nonsense. As a result the prosecution said they were not concerned with the ‘forcible’ aspect of the incident, only with whether Cresswell had stopped Burchnall. This Cresswell had never denied, but he was found guilty of the ‘forcible’ charge anyway!
He was not allowed to recall Burchnall to give evidence concerning ‘the duties of the university’. When Cresswell protested at this, the Board said he was ‘in contempt of court’ and had a 5 minute recess. Unlike Black and aspinall, he was not interrupted when he read out the statement at the end of the defence evidence.
Phil Gusack was next. The lynch-pin of the prosecution evidence was Mr Jones, who said he had seen Gusack ‘making palm trees from a substance which I found upon later examination to be cardboard’. Nothing especially heinous about that, said Gusack, but he was found guilty anyway.
The evidence against Danny Fishman was very sparse. In the written evidence his name was only mentioned twice, and then it was spelt ‘Feldman’. The prosecution evidence was so scanty that Feldman/Fishman didn’t see the necessity of calling any witnesses. When he read out the statement the Board tried to stop him and said they weren’t interested. Fishman gave them a brief lecture on why they should be and then read out the statement. he told the Board he was in quite a hurry and wouldn’t bother to wait for his verdict.
The prosecution evidence in Sue Rossinger’s trial was mainly concerned with the types of sandwiches she had spent her time making. Mr Jones recalled an interesting incident at 3.00 one morning:
“I saw a man in a sleeping bag come out of Committee Room 2. He hopped across the hall to the toilet. He later emerged, still in a sleeping bag, and with what you may call a hop, skip and a jump, your honour, he went back across the hall and fell against the committee room door, damaging it.”
When Jon Snow went in, the prosecution went into eulogies about the way in which he had kept the building clean. It wasn’t necessary for him to call any witnesses, except Fr Maxwell to establish that Snow had not, as they had said, prolonged the sit-in, but had in fact recommended that we left on the Wednesday.
Ian Williams based his defence on witnesses who established that the university was run by big business. The Board took exception to one witness who referred to the Echo as a ‘Tory rag’. A witness was asked if he thought Mr AIS Macmillan’s presence on the advisory board of discipline showed that the university was democratic. Williams collapsed with laughter at this.
None of the ten were allowed to call any witnesses relating to the nature of the ‘duties of the university’. Yet they were charged with ‘hampering’ those duties. Neither could they call any witnesses regarding how much they had ‘hampered’ those duties.
When Andy Black heard his verdict he refused to leave the room and had to be removed by porters. Pro-Vice Chancellor Rosenhead commented that ‘deep inside. I’m crying for you all’. Crocodile tears at a kangaroo court.
‘If it is alright for university bureaucrats to refuse significant communication by giving people the old bureaucratic run-around, why is it not alright for students to communicate with their bodies by preventing the machinery from functioning until communication takes place?
– Martin Oppenheimer, MA, PhD, Professor of Sociology at Lincoln University in Urban Guerilla (Penguin)
Activity in the first week
- Tue: regrouping meeting of March 19th Movement in the lunchhour.
- Wed: Mock trials of Thomas, Burchnell and Chrimes for inciting students to occupy Senate House, and of 6 members of Board of Discipline for bringing the good name of the university into disrepute. Lounge Hall: 5:15.
- Thur: Official mass meeting of Guild to discuss situation. Mountford 12:30. Emergency Guild Council to ratify mass meeting decision. Evening.
- Publication during week of pamphlets on C.B.W. and Salisbury/racialism.
Fight racist sport this summer
The venues for the white South African cricket matches are as follows:
- 6: Sat Lords Southern Counties
- 10: Wed Trent Bridge Northern Counties
- 13 Sat Headingley Yorkshire
- 18 Tue LORDS FIRST TEST
- 27 Sat Edgbaston Warwicks
- 2 Thurs TRENT BRIDGE SECOND TEST
- 11 Sat Oval Surrey
- 16 Thurs EDGBASTON THIRD TEST
- 25 Sat Swansea Glamorgan
- 30 Thurs HEADINGLEY FOURTH TEST
- 8 Sat Old Trafford Lancs
- 13 Thurs OVAL FIFTH TEST