First arrests in Downing Street under SOCPA section 128 ?

| 6 Comments

The Cabinet Office and Downing Street are not public areas, but this story is relevant to the identical SOCPA section 128 perimeters around the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House Protected Sites, which used to have public areas until 1st June.

The Sunday Express carries this story, which the Press Association and other media have pocked up / copied.

The Sunday Express
COUPLE 'BYPASS PM'S SECURITY
' Sunday June 10,2007

Two intruders were able to walk into Downing Street - bypassing the wrought-iron security gates installed to protect the Prime Minister from bombers, it has emerged.

Obadiah Marius and his girlfriend strolled into the street after wandering through a neighbouring Whitehall building unchallenged, a No 10 spokesman confirmed.

The incident occurred on Monday afternoon when Marius, 44, and his partner walked into 70 Whitehall, which houses the Cabinet Office, off the street.

How did these two get past the supposedly always manned security desk at the entrance to 70 Whitehall ?

Unchecked, the pair found themselves at the rear of the building which backs on to Downing Street.

The Designated / Protected Site boundary covers Downing Street roadway and pavements and the north side of the road i.e. the Cabinet Office and Numbers 9, 10. 11 and 12 Downing Street.

downin~2.gif
The route allowed them to circumnavigate the gates installed by Margaret Thatcher to thwart terrorists amid the IRA bombing campaign in the 1980s and they were then arrested under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

There are no warning signs around the perimeter of the Cabinet Office building at 70 Whitehall.

Marius, 44, appeared in court on Thursday but his girlfriend, identified only as Miss Smith, was released without charge.

"I got into an area I should never have been allowed into," Marius told the Sunday Express.

"It really is a disgrace. I think they are going to drop the charges."

[...]


Presumably, Obadiah Marius will be able to claim ignorance, under
the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
Section 128 subsection (4):

(4) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he did not know, and had no reasonable cause to suspect, that the site in relation to which the offence is alleged to have been committed was a designated site.

However, he has presumably suffered the indignities of an arrest, fingerprinting, DNA sampling, photography etc, all of which will be retained for ever, or at least until his 100th birthday.

6 Comments

The Sunday Express has another, fuller article online now.

INTRUDER SEIZED IN NUMBER TEN

Sunday June 10,2007
By Julia Hartley-Brewer

[...]

Marius, 44, dressed in a tracksuit and T-shirt, and his girlfriend entered the neighbouring Cabinet Office and simply walked through an internal security door leading into the rear of No10 before being arrested. 

He and his girlfriend, identified only as Miss Smith, aged about 20, were able to slip through the entrance to the Cabinet Office at 70 Whitehall, just yards from Downing Street, by waiting for someone to leave and walking through the open door. A security guard “buzzed” them through an inner security door after they asked to be let in.

The pair were confronted only after they had passed through the Cabinet Office, the civil servant department, and entered a corridor at the rear of 10 Downing Street.

When Marius, who lives on a council estate in Stratford, east London, and Miss Smith were stopped and asked what they were doing, they replied that they were “looking for work”. It was only then they were detained and arrested under the Serious and Organised Crime Police Act 2005. Miss Smith was later released without charge.

Marius is believed to be the first person to be prosecuted under a new law of trespass in “protected” Government buildings and royal palaces, which could see him jailed for up to six months.

He denied that he had “trespassed on a protected site” and was released on bail until his trial on August 10 but has been ordered to have treatment at a drug clinic as part of his bail conditions.

[...]

The connecting corridor only came to public knowledge in 1986 during an episode of the television comedy Yes, Prime Minister. These days, the door is operated by an electronic buzzer and is supposed to be for authorised person-nel only. At the hearing last Thursday in Westminster magistrates court, Marius’ defence barrister Malcolm Hawkes said his client did not know the building was a “protected site”.

He told District Judge Timothy Wakeman that Marius could not be found guilty of trespass if he did not know he was not supposed to have entered the building.

He said: “Mr Marius was let into the building by a security guard. There’s no explanation as to why this was.
“Mr Marius was astounded to find himself in Downing Street, which is where he was arrested. This case has all the hallmarks of a genuine mistake.” Two security guards from the Cabinet Office will be called to give witness evidence at the next court hearing in August.

[...]


Why are they wasting public money on a further Court appearance on August 10th ?

It will be an astonishing and extremely worrying legal precedent if Obidiah Marius is convicted, despite the utter lack of Section 128 warning signs on the Cabinet office building at 70 Whitehall, the implied permission given to him by the obviously mistaken security guard, and, the Statutory Defence of ignorance of being on a Designated/Protected site explicitly set out in in Section 128 subsection (4) (see main article above).

Why on earth did Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, presumably, give his consent for this prosecution, as laid down in Section 128 subsection (6) ?

(6) No proceedings for an offence under this section may be instituted against any person-

(a) in England and Wales, except by or with the consent of the Attorney General, or

If the Attorney General is simply going to rubber stamp prosecutions for this sort of minor mistake by a member of the public, to divert attention from the incompetence of the security authorities then he should resign.

Perhaps they are trying to set a precedent here, by taking this to court.

If the court convicts, it will kill the Defence of ignorance, as a legal entity.

Reading these background policy documents regarding warning signs and the Section 128(4) defence of ignorance

House of Lords discloses a couple of Home Office SOCPA Section 128 Designated / Protected Sites signage documents

makes it very difficult to see why Obadiah Marius has actually been charged and is facing trial.

Surely this prosecution must fail and "bring the offence into disrepute" as there were no warning signs whatsoever.

This man stole my wallet in june 9/2006 just walking into our office he spoke to me while stealing my wallet from my jacket hanging next to me. I lost £400-00 + cards personal items and the problems followed as i was going abroad in the following 2 days..
I have reported this to police again and expect him to be punished for what he`s done.
regards
Hasan Arikoglu London SW7

@ Hasan - you may be waiting a long time for any actual justice in your case.

After the prosecution seem to have dropped the SOCPA Section 128 criminal trespass prosecution, since the requisite warning signs were not in place at 70 Whitehall at the time of this incident. Prosecution under this offence also requires the consent of the Attorney-General, who, at the time had promised not to exercise her authority to do this sort of thing following the BAE / Saudi Arabia corruption prosecution suppression scandal.

The Daily Telegraph reported:

Serial burglar escapes prison over brazen Downing Street breach

By Bonnie Malkin and agencies
Last Updated: 1:48pm GMT 28/03/2008

[...]


Shaven-headed Marius, from Battens Park, Stratford, east London, who has amassed 78 offences since the age of 13, pleaded guilty to burgling the Downing Street premises on June 5 last year.

He also admitted breaking into Snaresbrook Crook Court three months earlier and stealing judges’ laptops worth £4,500.


If he is not in prison for that offence, it seems unlikely that he will be properly punished for allegedly stealing your wallet.

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