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‘At odds with open justice’: Supporters of ‘Kill the Bill’ defendant denied access to court room

by Bethany Rielly

SUPPORTERS of a Kill the Bill protester on trial this week for rioting have expressed outrage after being refused access to the courtroom. 

The defendant, Ryan Roberts, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of riot, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, after he was arrested for his involvement in the Bristol demo against the policing Bill on March 21. 

The 25-year-old, who has been held on remand in prison since then, is accused of attempting to set light to two occupied police vans during the protest. 

Supporters of the defendant, who argue that protesters were subject to violence at the hands of the police, tried to enter Bristol Crown Court on the first day of the trial on Monday but were denied access to the courtroom. 

They were instead told to view the proceedings in a separate room via a video link. 

A spokesperson from Bristol Defendant Solidarity described the move as “authoritarian” and “at odds with the principle of ‘open justice’.”

“It is a blatant attempt to undermine solidarity and further isolate a defendant who has been on remand for six months and faces many years in prison,” they added. 

Replying to concerns on social media, HM Courts and Tribunals said that due to interest in the trial it had “planned in advance for more observers and set up space in another courtroom in the building where more people were able to observe by video link.”

But supporters argued they were unable to follow the proceedings because the web link was “inaudible.”

Today, the court backtracked on its decision and allowed supporters access to the public gallery. 

The trial is expected to run till Friday. 

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