Joint Committee on Human Rights call for evidence on "policing and protest"- by June 9th

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (with Members of Parliament from the House of Commons and Peers from the House of Lords) has called for evidence for its inquiry into "the human rights issues arising from policing and protest" by Monday 9th June 2008

N.B. This has a similar time scale, and covers some of the same ground, as the Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill inquiry, which wants evidence by 12th June 2009 - see the previous blog article Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill call for evidence - are they trying to prevent the repeal of SOCPA sections 132 to 138 ?

Both Joint Committees will be examining (along with other matters) the proposed repeal of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 sections 132 to 138 which curb the rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom to protest peacefully in the vast Designated Area around Parliament Square, Whitehall, and well beyond.

JCHR Press Release:



The Joint Committee on Human Rights has decided to inquire into the human rights issues arising from policing and protest.

The Committee has a longstanding interest in the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the right to peaceful protest. During the last Parliament, the Committee's predecessor raised significant concerns about the potential restrictions on protest around Parliament when it scrutinised the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA). These concerns have been borne out by subsequent events (e.g. the prosecution of Maya Evans for reading out the names of the war dead at the Cenotaph). However, the Committee's concerns extend more widely than the operation of SOCPA alone to the policing of protest more generally and to the operation of other policing powers in practice (e.g. policing of the May Day and Fairford protests). Are these events indicative of a trend towards eroding the right to protest or are they an inevitable and necessary reaction to increased security concerns?

The right to protest is a fundamental feature of a democratic society, encompassing the rights to freedom of assembly and expression, amongst others. These rights have long featured in British legal tradition, and are protected by Articles 11 and 10 respectively of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). According to the House of Lords, "these rights are fundamental rights, to be protected as such. Any prior restraint on their exercise must be scrutinised with particular care. The [ECHR] test of necessity does not require that a restriction be indispensable, but nor is it enough that it be useful, reasonable or desirable."

The Committee wishes to explore the following issues which arise from policing and protest:

• The proportionality of legislative measures to restrict protest or peaceful assembly

• Existing powers available to the police and their use in practice

• Reconciling competing interests of public order and protest.

Interested persons and bodies are invited to submit written evidence for consideration by the Committee, if possible, by Monday 9 June 2008. This call for evidence identifies questions in relation to which the Committee would particularly welcome evidence. The Committee would also welcome views on other matters witnesses wish to raise which are relevant to policing and protest. The Committee intends to hold oral evidence sessions in the summer.

1. Are current legislative measures which restrict protest or peaceful assembly (such as SOCPA 2005 and the Public Order Act 1986) necessary and proportionate to the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly?

• To what extent should peaceful protest be facilitated by the State?

• What limits, if any, should be placed on the right to protest and why?

• Should specific limitations be placed on the ability of certain groups to protest? If so, who and why?

• Should the right to protest be more strictly curtailed in relation to certain geographical areas? If yes, where, why and what limits would be acceptable?

• The Government proposes to repeal sections 132-8 SOCPA dealing with protest around Parliament and invites Parliament to consider whether additional provision is needed to ensure that Parliament's work is not disrupted by protests in Parliament Square. What, if any, additional provision is required?

• In what circumstances would it be permissible for the State to take pre-emptive action which curtailed protests?

2. How do existing common law and legislative police powers (such as the common law power to prevent a breach of the peace, stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000 and the use of force) operate in practice?

• Are existing police powers necessary? Are more or fewer required?

• Are counter-terrorism powers appropriately used in the policing of protests?

• Do existing police powers pay sufficient regard to human rights?

• Are there positive examples of good practice in the policing of protests (whether in the UK or in other countries)?

3. Can the competing interests of public order and the right to protest be reconciled?

• In what circumstances may actions during protests be justifiably criminalised?

• Does existing criminal law and practice pay sufficient regard to human rights?

• Are complaints about the handling of protests (including police action during protests) adequately addressed?

• How should the balance be struck between the rights of protesters and other competing interests (such as the rights of others or the prevention of disorder or crime)? Would legislative changes be desirable to strike a better balance between competing rights, or is the current legislative framework about right?


Submissions should be no longer than 2,500 words and be addressed to Dr Mark Egan, Commons Clerk of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA (email: Electronic submission in Word format is requested, but a signed hard copy should also be sent.

Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed, placed on the Internet or circulated by the Committee at any stage. You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege.

Parliament Protest Web Button

Either save this image and link to us, or copy the HTML code below into your web page or template:

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Click here for a larger version of this web campaign button graphic.

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Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Protest Organisers

The hints and tips below are just as important to anybody organising a peaceful Protest near to Parliament Square, as they are to other people who might come under UK Government or Multinational Corpotation:

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link:

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009
Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

The Convention is being held in the Logan Hall and adjoining rooms at the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury, central London.


The Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way

There are video linked screenings or other parallel meetings being held across the UK in Belfast. Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff and Manchester.

Convention on Modern Liberty blog

Campaign Button Links

NO2ID  Campaign
NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

link to

People in Common - weekly Picnics etc. in Parliament Square, every Sunday at about 1pm.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Please help us to find this man! He was arrested(?) in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005

This man was one of the very first people arrested in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005, but he has apparently disappeared.

link to
Silent Protest - a web photo gallery "encouraging people to stage a virtual, government un-sanctioned protest. All you need to do is get a picture of yourself, or your friends, within the protest free zone. Assume the pose (hand over mouth), aim and click."

. - useful background briefings for the Managing Protest around Parliament public consultation, and model letters to MPs etc.

About this blog

This web blog has been set up as an information resource and discussion area (please be polite in the comments) to help organise resistance to the restrictions on peaceful democratic demonstrations and protests, which have been enacted by law, in a wide Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

It appears that in order to remove the peace protestor Brian Haw, who had been demonstrating continuously in Parliament Square, day and night, for over 10 years,(literally until his death in June 2011), the NuLabour Government overreacted, and granted themselves draconian and arbitrary powers, which affected the rights of all individual British citizens to lobby their Members of Parliament, or to walk in a vast Designated Area wearing a "political slogan" T-shirt, badge, rubber wristband etc. without first seeking prior written permission from the Police.

This is an affront to democracy and is not justified even on any spurious "climate of fear" alleged "security" grounds.

N.B. SOCPA ss128-132 is now repealed and replaced with less restictive laws, but there are still some peculiar restrictions and bylaws on protests around Parliament Square.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your news, views or suggestions about this blog, and about the issues it highlights.

info @ParliamentProtest [dot] org [dot].uk

For those of you who want to send us information in confidence, here is our PGP Public Encryption Key

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Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was rushed through, "on the nod", with minimal debate, during the undemocratic "wash up" process at the end of the last Parliament when the General Election had been called.

The bulk of the Act deals with the setting up of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but there are also sections such as:

Section 110 Powers of Arrest

From 1st January 2006 this section makes any offence, no matter how minor, into an arrestable offence. Arrests by the police these days can mean taking 10 fingerprints and two palm prints, a DNA tissue sample and processing it into a digital "DNA fingerprint", forcing you to remove any facial coverings, (even those worn for religous purposes) to take photographs of your face etc. All of these items of personal data can then be retained forever, even if you are not charged, or any charges against you are dropped, or if you go to court and are found not guilty.

These new powers are regulated by the new statutory Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice G (.pdf)

Section 128 Trespass on a Designated Site - e.g. Crown Property or National Security

Sections 132 to 138 Demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament - the controversial restrictions in detail.

The Public Whip website has details of how the Members of the House of Commons voted on these controversial clauses.

Brian Haw

Veteran peace protestor Brian Haw was physically camped out in Parliament Square since 2nd June 2001 until his death in June 2011

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 sections 132 to 138 Designatd Area law seem to have been written to try to specifically suppress his protests, although, through sheer incompetence, the Government found that Brian Haw himself was initially exempt from some of it, since his protest started before the stupidly worded repressive legislation came into force, although a later High Court Appeal, at public exepnse, did apply the law to him.

See Parliament Square website for news and support details.

Write to politicians

Write To Them - identify and contact your local councillors, Members of Parliament, devolved Assembly members and Members of the European Parliament

You can also write to the Home Secretary David Blunkett Charles Clarke John Reid Jacqui Smith Alan Johnson Theresa May

You can send an email public.enquiries@ or a letter to:

Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP
Home Secretary
c/o Direct Communications Unit
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Home Office Contact Us page

Designated Area

The current Designated Area is set out in:

Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005

Read more about the Designated Area in our category archive.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 132 to 138 have been repealed by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 Part 3 on the Statute Book, but not yet Commenced by Order). This replaces the Designated Area with a much smaller Controlled Area - just Parliament Square Gardens and the surrounding pavements.

Mass Lone Demonstrations

Comedian Mark Thomas's website has details of Mass Lone Demonstrations which legally show up the absurdity of this law, and the bureaucracy involved in enforcing it. These multiple independent one person demonstrations take place on the third Wednesday of the month, from 5pm - 7.30pm within the Designated Area (often in Parliament Square, but not exclusively so)

Meet on the second Wednesday of each month outside Charing Cross police station (located at Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP - see the map) any time between: 5.30 pm -7.30pm to hand in your Metropolitan Police SOCPA forms (download the optional Word or PDF forms from the Metroplitan Police) or your own personal Written Applications for Prior Permission.

Regular Protests in Parliament Square

Parliament Square - supporting the long running, 24/7, peace protest by Brian Haw in Parliament Square

Global Women's Strike who held "open mike" loudspeaker protests every Wednesday for over two and a half years, which are now banned.

London Critical Mass - group bicycle ride on the last Friday of every month, for the last 10 years, which often strays into the Designated Area.

The People's Commons Meeting / Tea Party / Picnic-Protest is now meeting every Sunday afternoon starting at 1 for 1.30pm on the Green in Parliament Square. wiki - new website

Website Links

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management, systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006.

Metropolitan Police Service

Metropolitan Police Authority - meant democratically to supervise the Metropolitan Police Service

Independent Police Complaints Commission

United Kingdom Parliament - Palace of Westminster, House of Lords, House of Commons etc.

Booking Parliament Square - Greater London Authority booking forms, terms and conditions for filming and photography for Parliament Square - "The GLA does not grant permission for demonstration, rallies and public meetings on Parliament Square Gardens".

They Work For You - a more user friendly version of the House of Commons Hansard

Pledgebank pledge:

"I will form part of a human chain around the Westminster no protest zone but only if 6,000 other people will join in."

Repeal-SOCPA-Info has useful briefing material for the Public Consultation into the laws restricting demonstrations, marches and assemblies, sample letters to MPs etc..

Blog Links

Spy Blog - Privacy and Security and Civil liberties campaigning

Mayor of London Blog - unnofficial comments on the Mayor of London and Greater London Assembly

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol at £1 per litre ! Protest !

Bloggerheads graphics of the 1km zone and the actual Designated Area

Charity Sweet - who has been harrassed for reading a copy of the Independent newspaper outside Downing Street etc.

BBC Travel Jam Cams

BBC Radio London has some links to Traffic Monitoring CCTV cameras, which they publish every 5 or 10 minutes, not usually in real time.

Whenever there is an "incident" or a march or demonstration, these online images are deliverately censored i.e. "not available for operational reasons", This is despite the images being of too low a resolution to identify anybody, and, the effect of not diverting traffic away from the incident, which should be the whole point of the online Traffic Cam images in the first place.

Whitehall / Parliament Square - this camera view sometimes shows Brian Haw's peace camp, and the "temporary" GLA fence around Parliament Square Gardens (removed >then rebuilt)

Northumberland Avenue / Victoria Embankment

Trafalgar Square (on the edge of the Designated Area)