Activist files civil charges against Croughton airman
March 29, 2009
A British activist is taking her case against an airman who detained her after she hopped a fence to RAF Croughton to the civil courts.
Lindis Percy, co-coordinator for the group Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, has filed a £1,000 claim against Senior Airman Frank McDonald, whom she alleges caused superficial cuts, swelling and pain to wrists from handcuffs being too tight and other injuries when he detained her at Croughton in February 2006. McDonald is now a staff sergeant at Croughton.
A criminal case against McDonald was dismissed when U.S. officials filed a certificate of military duty with the court on the airman’s behalf in April 2008. The certificate prevents British courts from assuming jurisdiction in the case under the U.K. Visiting Forces Act of 1952.
Percy, 67, said she hopes to get some justice from filing the civil claim.
"This is a claim for monetary damages of £1,000, but more importantly it is bringing this man to account," Percy said. "It was a disgrace what went on."
Percy said McDonald’s side has acknowledged receiving the claim filed on Feb. 23 in Harrogate County Court, and now she is waiting to see how he responds. He has 28 days from March 12 — the day he acknowledged receiving the claim — to respond.
Percy said she expects one of three things to happen: The claim will be paid; it will be disputed and sent to the courts; or the U.S. government will intervene again.
"We have options we will be discussing," if the claim is not paid, she said.
Percy also contended that two British Ministry of Defence police officers were at fault in the incident because they failed to intervene. Misconduct charges against those two officers, Barry Athawes and Kenneth Woodhouse, were dropped after prosecutors heard testimony from them last May.
Procedures in situations like what happened at Croughton specify that the MOD authorities must be called if a British citizen is peaceful and not causing any problems, she said.
Third Air Force officials declined to be interviewed for this story, but they did release an e-mail statement.
"This matter is now the subject of pending civil litigation and as such it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the case," the statement read. "There are provisions in Air Force instructions that allow for airmen in these circumstances to request support from the USAF. (Staff Sgt.) McDonald and base officials at RAF Croughton are aware of those procedures."