A student at the UWE has had charges of criminal damage against him dropped.
Paul Saville, 23, is studying sociology and criminology in Bristol. He was arrested by Avon and Somerset police officers for writing the words Liberty. The right to question it. The right to ask: “Are we free?” in chalk on a pavement in Broadmead.
He was charged with criminal damage and taken to Trinity Rd police station where he was fingerprinted, had a DNA sample taken and spent two hours in the cells.
He had been due to appear at Bristol Magistrates Court on Thursday April 9 to face charges. But on Saturday he received a letter from the Crown Prosecution Service which said that his charges have been dropped due to ”lack of evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”.
Paul told us he is relieved, but saddened by the experience. He said: “The DNA sample and fingerprints will stay on record. So, although I won’t be paying a fine, my DNA will stay on their database, which is the sad part for me.
“It is a funny story but sat in that cell that evening it wasn’t funny to me. I was in disbelief. My original question about civil liberties was answered that night. It was ironic that I had been arrested for speaking up about civil liberties.”
Paul says he used household chalk which would have washed away “after one rainy day in Bristol” and believes police over-reacted in arresting him.
However, he revealed he’d received help in fighting the case by scientists at the UWE. The technical definition of ‘criminal damage’ is anything that “damages, destroys or reduces the life of” something.
Paul said: “A laboratory at the UWE has been very kind and performed tests on concrete to see if chalk does ‘damage, destroy or reduce the life of’ it. In their opinion it doesn’t do any of those and chalk comes off after running the concrete under a tap. So I would say it wasn’t technically criminal damage anyway.”
Paul carried out his chalking as a political protest against the erosion of civil liberties, and has attracted followers from across Bristol and the UK. One group is promising a mass chalking protest on the streets of Bristol to show solidarity with Paul and protest against his arrest.
Audio: Paul Saville speaks to Original’s Martin Jones