Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Protesters hold mock trial in Howard's front yard

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, found himself at the centre of a weekend of protest against the Criminal Justice Act yesterday as demostrators invaded his new coutry home and staged a `People's Court'. Another protest ended in violent clashes between hunt saboteurs and Essex police.

About 250 protesters invaded the grounds of Mr Howard's new home near Folkestone, Kent. Six climbed on to the roof while others had a picnic, unfurled banners, chanted and staged a mock trial in his front garden to find Mr Howard guilty of ``a gross violation of human rights''.

About 60 Kent police attended while a police helicopter circled overhead. The rooftop protesters were eventually persuaded to come down. There were no arrests.

As darkness fell the invaders, who included hunt saboteurs, civil rights groups and opponents of road schemes, boarded their coaches and were given a police escort to the M20. ``It was a noisy but entirely peaceful protest,'' said a police spokeswoman.

Many of the demonstrators had not known that they were bound for Mr Howard's new home, in his Folkestone constituency - the journey had been billed as a ``mystery tour''.

Mr Howard and his family have yet to move into the large detached house, where building work is still going on.

Across the Thames estuary in Essex, police charged 22 hunt saboteurs with aggravated trespass - trespassing while disrupting, or intending to disrupt, a lawful activity - which became an offence this month under the new Act.

The charges followed Saturday's mass disruption of the Essex Hunt's meeting, which began in Good Easter, near Chelmsford. More than 200 saboteurs descended on the village.

A police spokeswoman said two men, aged 26 and 25 and both from the London area, have been charged with grievous bodily harm after a police sergeant was kicked unconcious and a constable had an arm broken. The sergeant is recovering at home.

Paul Davies, campaigns officer with the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said an officer had beaten a woman saboteur with a 4ft metal-tipped stake and she had needed hospital treatment.

There were no violent confrontations with the hunt itself, which managed to kill one fox.

(Photograph omitted)