LONDON: Gay sister Angela Weir was freed by an Old Bailey jury last month at the end of the Stoke Newington 8 trial — otherwise known as the Angry Brigade trial — which turned out to be not only the longest case that court has ever known, but also its most under-reported case.
The fact is that only Time Out gave the trial week-by-week coverage. And it’s even more surprising that the mass-circulation papers weren’t interested in the story until four of the eight had been convicted of bombing offences, which the prosecution claimed were the work of the so-called Angry Brigade.
After the best part of a year sitting in the court listening to conflicting prosecution evidence (as on the topic of the explosives used) the 12-man jury retired. But only after Judge James had summed up the trial – to “refresh” the juror’s minds. In this factual account of the evidence the judge deemed it necessary to remark on the fact that Angela’s witnesses were gay. And he didn’t stop there. He went on to say “Don’t hold it against them (the witnesses) that, perhaps in other peoples’ eyes they are not normal members of society, they are normal in their own eyes.”
The state of the law in England then, as now, is that the jury decides matters of fact. The judge is there only to advise them on points of law and to make the legal decision necessary – that is, sentence the accused once the jury has found them guilty. He must not evaluate the various bits of evidence presented; that’s what the jury’s for.
However, after a couple of days recess the jury could only manage to reach a majority decision of 10 to 2 to convict four of the people accused with Angela of conspiring to cause explosions. Conspiracy, according to Judge James, can be a wink or a nod or any other slight sign of agreement.
The four convicted were said to have stored explosives for Angry Brigade bombers in their home in Amhurst Road, Stoke Newington.
Apart from jailing four young people for alleged conspiracy in a number of bombings, the Stoke Newington 8 trial – the first really big show-trial of political dissenters in Britain this century – guaranteed promotion for Commander Bond, the detective who made the arrests, made sure that the two men cleared of conspiracy charges with Angela were kept in prison for 16 months awaiting trial and during the hearing of the case, with no recompense now that they are cleared, and ensured that Angela’s political line changed substantially.
In Time Out’s interview (TO 148) she told the magazine’s news team: “The things I was mainly involved in were Gay Liberation and Women’s Liberation, and I think I was involved in them in a reactive way, you know, saying ‘This is terrible, we must do something about it’ – involved in a moral kind of way. Now I’m more convinced of a proper Marxist understanding of the situation and a strategy which comes from that and the need for proper organisation.”
It took the state a million pounds to make Angela a committed Marxist.