On the 9th of June WestGAP members joined IWW and Castlemilk Against Austerity in standing in solidarity with Tony Cox of SUWN outside Govan Job Centre. The event took place on the day of Tony’s court hearing for alleged ‘threatening behaviour’ while advocating for someone at a disability assessment in Arbroath. Members of each group stood outside Govan Job Centre and talked to the public to raise awareness of Tony’s situation, austerity and welfare reform.
The shcoking thing about Tony’s case is that he had the right to be at the assessment, and more importantly the person he attended the assessment with has the right to have an advocate present; this is written into the DWP’s own legislation. Despite this many advocates have been wrongly challenged by DWP staff, simply for advocating on behalf of their client at their request. Advocacy is vital to ensure vulnerable and marginalised people aren’t bullied by the state: it should not be punished.
Sadly Tony was found guilty on the 24th of June, with sentencing deferred until July. As he states in the Courier, the judge’s decision cannot be considered impartial, since he admitted to not giving equal weight to each parties’ testimony. In short, the judge was biased:
“In the Sheriff’s words, he preferred to believe the assessment centre witnesses rather than my testimony and that of the person I was advocating for. All in all, it’s a terrible result, and one which I have major trouble accepting.”
“I have no intention if stopping my campaign work and we are going to double our efforts, moving towards direct action.”
“We are now opening ourselves up to arrest every time we go to a Job Centre or an assessment centre and our argument is that we are on the receiving end of partial and politicised policing.”
The judge’s decision demonstrates the partiality of the legal system and the way it is instrumental in the marginalisation, even criminalisation of individuals and those who attempt to uphold their rights. Partial policing, as Tony puts it, is being used to suppress dissent against the punitive Tory welfare system by those who seek only to be treated fairly and compassionately – as the welfare system was originally designed for.
However, rather than being disheartening, the outcome of Tony’s trial should serve to highlight the importance of advocacy work, challenging the corrupt, unfair Tory welfare system and standing up to those who are implicit in the systematic oppression and marginalisation of the working class.
Advocacy isn’t a crime
Featured in this article:
IWW – Industrial Workers of the World (Scotland)
Pssst…. Next Monday July 4th WestGAP will be at the ‘Tories Out/General Strike’ protest in George Square, Glasgow.
Why not join us and voice your opposition to Austerity? – Details here