Nottingham convicted rioter prepares human rights case to contest guilt by association

7 Aug

Perry Atherton, 22 hopes to contest his conviction at the ECHR.

A young Nottingham man jailed following the national riots last year is preparing a case for the European Court of Human Rights.

After events on 9, August 2011, Perry Atherton, 22 was imprisoned for 3 years in May 2012. He was one of three men convicted for bombarding a police van with bricks, rocks and wood during riots which occured in Nottingham.Throughtout his trial Atherton always maintained that he was simply running due to other rioters having been chased toward him by the police, he is said to have been on the streets of Nottingham after leaving the house to get some food and ran due to a fear of being arrested for something he had not done. His mother, Kat is an alibi to this story. The prosecution however, was successful in proving that Atherton was part of a group provoking violent and menacing conduct and since, Atherton has been serving his conviction in prison.

Usha Sood, a Nottingham barrister has taken on Atherton’s case and is preparing to take it to the European Court of Human Rights to ask ‘if the correct levels of proof were applied and if people should be guilty by association.’ Sood plans to claim that the conviction prevents Atherton’s human rights under articles 6 and 8 of the Human Rights Act as he alleges was in the area where the offence took place for innocent reasons.

Atherton has no criminal record and has never been in trouble with police previously and from the outside it could look like the collective element which trapped him was the reason for conviction, particularly as evidence suggested, simply comes down to his choice of attire on the night and of course the fact he ran, which is proven on CCTV.

Although different circumstances from Atherton’s but dealing with the collective element used in judgment, is the 2009 event of Ian Tomlinson’s death. The case of Tomlinson, a London newspaper vendor following an extremely brutal assault by police sparked huge outrage. As an innocent man, completely separate from the protests walked home after work , he was assaulted by the Metropolitan police who saw him as an instigator of violent protest due to the collective element of his actions to move slowly when police urged him forward. It was later proved that Tomlinson was innocent. Here is an example of guilt by association proven wrong, albeit by the police and not a judge.

If Atherton’s case proceeds to the European Court of Human Rights the result could set further precedents for other cases which ensued after last year’s riots the effects of which could be dramatic for both those convicted and the victims of the riots.

After the 2011 riots, the government vowed to hunt down each perpetrator of violence which occurred around the country following Mark Duggan’s death stating that ‘those responsible for the violence and looting will be made to face the consequences of their actions.’ Since this alleged government crackdown many convicted have been extremely quick to claim their innocence especially those convicted through the collective rule. Of course we must ask why these supposedly innocent people were out on the streets on a night when riots were spreading through the country and predicted to reach Nottingham? However, could it be that the police were trying to send a message out of non-leniency irrespective of innocence or guilt? Have the police panicked and charged innocent people in the rush to ‘crack down’ on violent protest?

In spite of the above, should Atherton’s case even reach the European Court of Human Rights whether successful or not it could be detrimental to the future of collective judgment and guilt by association.

Author:Nadya SJ

Source(s):BBC News, ThisisNottingham, The Guardian

Photographs:BBC News

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