When Siôn Jenkins was granted bail on 2 August 2004, a number of stringent conditions were imposed. These included where he should live , how far he was allowed to travel, and how he should report to the police.
All these issues related directly to Siôn Jenkins and his movements.They were the subject of specific orders subsidiary to the granting of bail, which took place at around midday.
However, there was to be a further ‘condition’ which related only indirectly to Siôn Jenkins : it concerned the Justice for Siôn Jenkins website.
In fact, the website operated then, as it does now, completely independently. Although it is dedicated to the case of Siôn Jenkins, its content has never been produced by Siôn Jenkins, any member of his family, or his legal team.
The facts of what happened in court on 2 August were unknown to the authors of this site. There was no communication with us at that time. The only reference to the website emerged through media reports of the bail hearing. There was no communication with the website authors.
The only addition to the website following the appeal was a single line added at 12.45pm on 2 August stating the fact that Siôn Jenkins had been granted bail.
It was 4 August when we were eventually contacted by a member of the defence legal team to be told that an ‘agreement’ had now been made between the defence and the prosecution that the website should be taken down completely and replaced with a suitable message. The Crown was apparently concerned that potential jurors might go to the website to do some research and therefore jeopardise the fairness of the trial process.
The fact that a large volume of material about the case — from various sources — was already online did not, apparently, matter. A number of forums and chatrooms discussing the case remained online for the duration of both retrials, even though the views and opinions of the contributors could be seen as highly prejudicial.Even during the course of the first retrial comments were being posted on an almost daily basis. Many amounted to no more than gossip; some were openly flippant. Yet they were allowed to remain online where any potential juror might happen across them.
Only the campaign website had to go. The scales of justice were certainly not evenly balanced over this issue.
- Why was any “agreement” not discussed in open court?
- How could this be seen as a reasonable — or just — demand?
- How could a condition of bail relate to a third party not even represented in court?
The website authors had broken no law. No written order was issued: evidently, though, the law’s demands can be imposed by word of mouth. There was an abundance of other &mash; potentially prejudicial — material online about Siôn Jenkins, but only this website was being targetted.
Despite all our objections over the next two days it was made very clear that the price of Siôn Jenkins’ bail was our compliance.
The incredible climax came when Siôn Jenkins was placed under house arrest on 6 August. He would not be allowed to leave his parents’ home for as long as Sussex police believed the website was still online. In fact, he was not released until two hours after the website had been taken offline.
Freedom of speech became expendable, and the website was the bone thrown to pacify an angry prosecution.
We were forced to close down on 6 August, having committed no offence and with no right of appeal.
The full details of this disturbing episode will be published at a future date.