Woman ‘wanted to stop asylum seekers suffering more trauma on Bibby Stockholm’

A woman who is alleged to have sat in front of a police vehicle carrying suspects after a coach due to transport asylum seekers to the Bibby Stockholm barge was obstructed said she “wanted to stop them from experiencing any more trauma”, a court heard.

Indea Barbe-Wilson told Stratford Magistrates’ Court that she joined protesters on Peckham Road, Peckham, south-east London, on May 2.

The incident came after police were made aware of people obstructing a coach which was parked outside a Best Western Hotel at about 8.30am.

Barbe-Wilson, 31, of Robert Keen Close, Peckham, and Jony Cink, 23, of Symphony Grove, Lewisham, London, were both arrested at about 3.15pm and the prosecution allege they were in a group blocking the movement of the police carriers that were seeking to transport suspects to custody, but the Crown could not say at which point the defendants entered the road.

A view of the Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland Port in Dorset.
A view of the Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland Port in Dorset (Matt Keeble/PA)

Cink and Barbe-Wilson went on trial charged with obstruction of the highway on Monday.

During her evidence, Barbe-Wilson said she “wanted to go and stop them from being moved to Bibby Stockholm” and arrived about five minutes before she was arrested.

The defendant said she believed the coach was still in place and did not know it had already been moved and there had been arrests.

She said she sat, joined other protesters and started joining chants of “this is what community looks like”.

Barbe-Wilson, who is a student, said from what she had read in the news about whistleblowers who had previously worked on Bibby Stockholm, “it is not a good place”, adding: “My understanding is that they wouldn’t be treated well, they would experience further trauma, they’re people who had been through enough already and had come here for safety.”

She added: “I wanted to stop them from experiencing any more trauma.”

Barbe-Wilson said: “Honestly, if I had known that the coach had not been there and if I had known there had already been arrests, I wouldn’t have sat down, I wouldn’t have the guts or thought there was any point in it, it wasn’t an anti-police action.”

When police first arrived at the scene, a number of people were surrounding the coach which was in a bus lane, but traffic was able to move freely down the road initially, Superintendent Matt Cox said.

He said very early on he was informed by the company contracted by Border Force that they would no longer be moving the asylum seekers “as they did not want any negative publicity or whatever it was” and it “was not an enforced move”.

Police became aware that one of the coach’s tyres had been deflated and said a decision was made for officers to try and get in between the protesters and the coach.

The coach was later moved and about 60 protesters began to surround three police carriers which suspects were being placed inside, prosecutor Timothy Fulford told the court.

The group was “three layers deep and fortified with push bikes and hire bikes that were abandoned in the road”, Mr Fulford added.

About four hours after the protest started when arrests were being made, “there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on with police officers trying to remove protesters, but also protesters trying to stop police officers undertaking their lawful duty”, Mr Cox said.

A view of the Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland Port in Dorset.
A view of the Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland Port in Dorset (Matt Keeble/PA)

The whole road became blocked “very quickly”, Mr Cox added.

He tried to communicate with the protesters while a drummer followed him “making an awful lot of noise”, the court heard.

Mr Cox said: “It was probably one of the most chaotic scenes and one of the hardest ones for police officers to deal with in a long time.”

The welfare of the suspects on the police carriers was a concern for him as they did not know who may or may not have needs to care for, he added.

He estimated the protesters were surrounding the police carriers for about two hours until 3.25pm.

Chief Inspector Vicky Causbrook described “several hundred” people watching on at about 3pm who “weren’t able to catch buses or go about their daily lives”.

And a school wanted to let its students leave at the end of the day, but “was afraid to because of the noise and the protest and the risk to the students”, she added.

Ms Causbrook’s body-worn camera footage was played to the court which showed a police cordon near the scene as drums and chanting could be heard, and people booing at one stage.

The moment Cink was arrested was played to the court on Pc Ian Rawsthorne’s body-worn camera footage.

He was sat linking arms with others when the officer pulled him up, then for part of the journey to the police carrier Cink was carried horizontally.

Pc Rawsthorne said that during the defendant’s arrest “there was not aggressive resistance but he wasn’t assisting either”.

Footage of Barbe-Wilson’s arrest was also played, which showed the defendant sat with her arms linked with others and being told to release her arms before she was handcuffed and brought to the police carrier.

The trial continues.