Comment: Early release right for Fernie>>

THE York student jailed for violence during the London protest against spending cuts is today back home after being released early on curfew.

Frank Fernie was released from jail in Cambridgeshire yesterday, three months into his 12-month sentence.

He said: “It’s absolutely brilliant to be back in York; I’m absolutely chuffed. I think I have spent quite long enough in jail and I just want to spend some time with my family and friends now.”

The 20-year-old, of Filey Terrace, Clifton, was jailed in July after admitting violent disorder in the confrontation outside luxury store Fortnum & Mason, in London’s Piccadilly, on the day 500,000 people marched through the capital in the TUC-organised March For The Alternative, this spring.

He went south to join in the march peacefully, but got caught up in violence started by a splinter group and threw two placard poles at lines of riot police.

The jail sentence ended his hopes of starting a science degree course at Sheffield Hallam University this autumn. He also had a part-time job.

The former Archbishop Holgate’s CE School and York College pupil, described in court as an “exceptionally promising” student, added yesterday: “From the outset I thought the sentence was quite unfair considering my background – I have never had any previous convictions and I have worked for voluntary organisations. I thought it was a bit harsh.

“Everyone makes mistakes. Prison really wasn’t the place for me – there really wasn’t any need for that.”

Frank Fernie is still waiting to hear if his 12-month sentence will be reduced and he said he is determined to continue his fight.

He is currently under a curfew till January next year which means he must be at home between 7pm and 7am.

Kathryn Smith, one of those who campaigned as part of the Free Frank Fernie campaign, said: “The campaigners are delighted. It is testament to Frank’s good character, which everybody has spoken about, that he has been released early.

“We continue campaigning now. He has been released on tag to serve the rest of his sentence at home. What the campaign is looking for is for somebody to look again at his sentence and say that it was not fair in the first place.

“I still think, ultimately, he has this on his record and that does not seem right for a moment’s hot-headedness. It if was done in town on a Saturday night, it would be a rap on the knuckles. We still view this as a political sentence and want it expunged from his record.”

However, there are those who think Frank’s sentence was right. The leader of the Conservatives on City of York Council, Coun Ian Gillies, said: “I fully support the court, if they say it was an appropriate sentence. You can’t go around throwing things at the police, irrespective of what you are demonstrating about.”

York Press: The Press - Comment

Early release right for Fernie

FRANK Fernie, the York student jailed for violence during the London protests against spending cuts last March, has been released from prison early.

He will serve the remainder of his 12-month sentence under curfew at home.

We are pleased this young man is back with his family. The number of people who spoke up in his support was impressive. He is clearly a decent, idealistic young man with the courage to stand up for what he believes in. That is no bad thing.

We believe, like many, that the 12-month sentence he was given was too harsh.

Nevertheless, while peaceful political activism is to be applauded – it is one of the things that differentiates free societies from tyrannies – Frank Fernie crossed a line. He resorted to violence.

By doing so, he both risked injury to police officers, and undermined the cause he was trying to promote.

We are glad he is out of prison, however. We don’t believe he is in any way a future threat to society.

In fact, it is good to see young people who are so committed to what they believe is right.

We hope his experience in prison will have left Frank Fernie wiser and more mature, without dimming his courage or conviction.

Once he has put this incident behind him, we believe he can yet make for himself a bright future.