July 10, 2010

High Court Judgment against the self styled "Democracy Village" and others in Parliament Square Gardens

Protests and demonstrations in Parliament Square, especially long term ones, are complicated by the legal ownership of the land.

Unlike the roads and pavements, which come under Westminster Council, the central grass in Parliament Square Gardens is owned by the Greater London Authority , under the control of the Mayor of London, the Conservative Boris Johnson.

The recent eviction of the self styled "Democracy Village" squatters encampment, resulted from a High Court case, brought by the GLA.

The Mayor of London v Hall & Ors (Rev 1) [2010] EWHC 1613 (QB) (29 June 2010)

N.B. this is not the first time that the GLA has acted against encampments set up in Parliament Square Gardens, the previous Labour Mayor Of London Ken Livingstone, had contractors erect a fence around Parliament Square Gardens, from August to October 2007, in scenes reminiscent of the early days of the Berlin Wall.

See: Mayor of London Ken Livingstone further restricts public access to Parliament Square with an ugly and potentially dangerous fence

The Judgment shows the complexities of the law, but neatly summarises some of the history of protests in Parliament Square.

This case involved several, separate, groups of people, who cannot be held responsible for each others actions.

At what point do the rights of one group of protestors start to impinge or on, or deny, the identical rights of other groups or individuals, who wish to use the same prime protest location in Parliament Square ?

April 3, 2008

Poor quality Home Office Statistics on the number of arrests in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square

The "why is he still in a job after personally presiding over so many cockups and scandals" Home Office Minister Tony McNulty answered a Parliamentary Written Question, giving a few details about the numbers of people (91 arrests, 18 convictions, up to December 2006) who have been arrested in the Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond:

1 Apr 2008 : Column 755W
Demonstrations: Parliament Square

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) males and (b) females, broken down by age group, were (i) arrested, (ii) prosecuted and (iii) convicted of unlawful public demonstrations in Parliament Square in each of the last three years for which information is available. [192539]

Mr. McNulty: Data showing the number of males and females, by age group, proceeded against and found guilty of organising or carrying out a demonstration in a designated area in 2005 and 2006 are found in the following table. The Ministry of Justice are unable to separate offences committed in Parliament Square from those committed in other locations within the designated area.

The Home Office does not collect the information requested on arrests centrally. However I understand from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police that since Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 came into force until the end of December 2006, there have been 91 arrests of individuals for a range of offences connected to demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament. Data on the number of arrests in 2007 is not available.

Someone is lying or is bureaucratically inept if they cannot tally up the figures for 2007 more than 3 months into 2008.

1 Apr 2008 : Column 755W

Mr. McNulty: Data showing the number of males and females, by age group, proceeded against and found guilty of organising or carrying out a demonstration in a designated area in 2005 and 2006 are found in the following table. The Ministry of Justice are unable to separate offences committed in Parliament Square from those committed in other locations within the designated area.

See Table below:

Continue reading "Poor quality Home Office Statistics on the number of arrests in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square" »

January 22, 2007

Brian Haw wins in Court regarding Conditions imposed under SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square law

Long term peace protester Brian Haw, has won his latest legal case regarding the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area restrictions around Parliament Square and beyond - a welcome surprise.

The BBC reports:

Parliament protester's legal win
Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2007, 14:29 GMT

Anti-war protester Brian Haw has won his latest legal battle to maintain his demonstration in Parliament Square.

Police claimed Mr Haw, 57, from Redditch, Worcestershire, posed a threat as terrorists could hide bombs under his many banners and placards.

But District Judge Quentin Purdy said he had not breached conditions imposed on him by the Metropolitan Police (Met) as they were unclear and invalid.

Continue reading "Brian Haw wins in Court regarding Conditions imposed under SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square law" »

December 10, 2006

Brian Haw in court next week to test SOCPA section 134 arbitrary conditions imposed on a demonstration

Long term Parliament Square protester Brian Haw (who has been encamped there for over 2000 days and nights now) is due in Court this week.

More details at

Brian will be in court from Mon 11th to Wed 13 December.

He is charged, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, with failing to comply with the conditions that the police imposed on his protest in May this year. Read press release

The court will start at 10am. There will be a demonstration of support outside from 9.30am. Please bring banners etc.

Marylebone Road Magistrates' Court
181 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5QJ
nearest tubes: Edgware Road, Baker Street. The court is near Marylebone mainline station.

location map

The trial will be the first test in court of the legality and reasonableness of the conditions (restrictions) that can be applied to a protest under SOCPA. Among the arguments put forward, will be that the conditions are incompatible with freedom of expression and association, enshrined in the Human Rights Act. Brian's defence include Ian MacDonald QC who has a reputation as one of the most progressive lawyers in the country, taking on criminal, immigration and race relations cases. In 2004 he publicly opposed the government's indefinite detention of terror suspects.

If Brian is convicted he faces up to 51 weeks in prison or a fine. It is also important because if the police win the case it will establish a legal precedent for the conditions they have imposed and how they have imposed them and will provide justification for their controversial actions on the 23rd May when they seized Brian's display in the dead of night

However, given the previous refusals of Magistrates's Courts to consider any Human Rights aspects of these SOCPA cases, it seems likely that the issues of Proportionality and Human Rights regarding SOCPA section 134 will have to be decided on Appeal in the High Court.

May 30, 2006

Brian Haw SOCPA Designated Area alleged breach of Conditions case adjourned until July 11th

Brian Haw's court appearance today at Bow Street magistrates' Court seems to have been adjourned until Jully 11th according to reports by theBBC. etc.

He is facing charges relating to his alleged breach of the arbitrary Conditions under the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Section 132, imposed on his long running peace protest in Parliament Square, which involve a dramatic reduction in the number of banners and posters etc. which he can now dsplay.

A couple of the confiscated posters were genuine original works of art by the increasingly famous artist Banksy, who has influenced TV advertising campaigns with his street art style.

The Police operation to removve these posters and banners last Tuesday morning was completely excessive. The Metropolitan Police wasted the time of 78 police officers and a scandalous £27,754 of public money. They also mislead the Metropolitan Police Authority and the public, last Thursday, by claiming that the cost was £7,200, which would have been bad enough.

May 8, 2006

Government wins appeal aginst Brian Haw's SOCPA Designated Area judgement

According to the Associated Press, and this via The Guardian:

Government wins war protest appeal

Press Association
Monday May 8, 2006 10:48 AM

The Government has won an appeal against a legal ruling which allowed anti-war protester Brian Haw to continue his long-running vigil outside Parliament.

Last July Mr Haw, from Worcestershire, won a High Court action against new laws threatening his round-the-clock demonstration, which he began in Parliament Square in June 2001.

The court then ruled that legislation aimed at controlling demonstrations around the Houses of Parliament did not apply to 56-year-old Mr Haw.

But at the Court of Appeal, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, Lord Justice Laws and Lady Justice Hallett overturned that decision.

Mr Haw was not at the London courtroom for the ruling.

© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2006, All Rights Reserved.

Will Brian Haw be evicted from his peace camp in Parliament Square, or will he eventually be forced to apply for prior written permission and be subject to arbitrary restrictions on his protest ?

Why is the Government persecuting inividuals in this way , simply for peacefully expressing their opionons and beliefs and peacefully assembling in a traditional place of public protest ?

It does not matter wether you agree or disagree with Brian Haw's views on the Iraq war etc., everybody is having their freedom to protest or demonstrate peacefully crushed by the Labour government and the Home Office and Metropolitan Police bureaucracies,

It is an affront to our democracy, and is something which will be cheered by our enemies.

April 12, 2006

Milan Rai fined £350 with £150 costs for Organising an unauthorised demonstration under the SOCPA Designated Area law

Milan Rai has become the first person to be convicted of organising an unuthorised demonstration under the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Section 132 Designated Area law around Parliament Square.

Milan has been fined £350 with £150 costs i.e. £500. He does not intend to pay and will try to appeal against this conviction.

Lifestyle Extra has a good report:

Peace activist refuses to pay fine

Wednesday, 12th April 2006, 13:06
Category: Crime and Punishment

LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - A peace activist convicted under new laws banning unauthorised demonstrations near the Houses of Parliament today (Wed) vowed to go to prison rather than pay a fine.

Milan Rai, 40, escaped a jail sentence at Bow Street magistrates' court and was slapped with a £350 and £150 costs after he refused to obtain police permission for his demonstration next to the Cenotaph in Whitehall near the gates to Downing Street last year.

Outside the court today, Rai said: "I have no intention of paying the fine.


"I am prepared to go to prison over this, I'm not scared. I guess people are afraid of the unknown, but I have already been to jail and it becomes less daunting every time."


Today district Judge Nicholas Evans said Rai, who faced up to 51 weeks' imprisonment under the controversial new law, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, had known the consequences of protesting without a permit.

Continue reading "Milan Rai fined £350 with £150 costs for Organising an unauthorised demonstration under the SOCPA Designated Area law" »

April 2, 2006

Home Office and the Met appeal against the Judicial Review of the Brian Haw case and the SOCPA Designated Area

Will the Appeal Court Judges side with the plucky British underdog, or will they rule for the Kafkaueasque NuLabour politicised Police and Civil Service bureaucracy, who are wasting the taxpayers money on this legalistic persecution ?

Immediate press release
2 April 2006


Monday 3 April, 10am, Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London

Brian Haw, the peace protestor who has been staging a continuous peace demonstration opposite Parliament for nearly 5 years, will again be attending court to hear the case against his presence in Parliament Square.

The Home Office and the Metropolitan Police are appealing a High Court judgement made in July last year which found that the law that had been passed specifically in order to remove him from Parliament Square did not apply to Mr Haw.

Mr Haw's demonstration had been seen as lawful since he won his first High Court victory in October 2005. [A] In 2005 the government included new measures within the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act to legally evict him.

However, when drafting the law, the government specified that demonstrations must have authorisation from the Metropolitan Commissioner before they 'start'. Mr Haw defence team argued in court that it was only in secondary legislation that continuous protests such as his were covered.

Despite hearing arguments from the Home Office that the intention was always to remove Mr Haw, the judges found that, because a criminal offence would be committed by breach of the new law with the penalty of up to a year in prison, there was "something sinister" about using secondary legislation to rewrite the law in this way. The judges found that the new law did not apply to Brian Haw and that he could continue his protest without authorisation from the police. [B]

The new law banning unauthorised protest within the Designated Area (up to 1km around Parliament) has been used to arrest those maintaining their right to freedom of speech since it came into force on 1 August 2005. There have been 11 convictions so far. [C]

Brian Haw will be outside the Royal Courts of Justice from 10am on 3 April.
There will be a demonstration in support of Mr Haw outside the Royal Courts of Justice from 10am.
For more information contact Emma Sangster, supporter of Brian Haw, 07791 486484,,



C. The provisions in question are sections 132-138 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. See and for details of protests against the new law and arrests.

Parliament Square Peace Campaign
for supporters of Brian Haw and the right to protest

March 15, 2006

Milan Rai is the first person charged with organising a demonstration under SOCPA Designated Area law is due in Bow Street Magistrates' Court, 2pm Thursday 16 March 2006

Milan Rai, who was charged along with Maya Evans for the tiny, peaceful 2 person "reading out the names of the British soldiers killed in Iraq " Remembrance Ceremony by the Cenotaph in Whitehall last October, is due in court tomorrow.

He is the first person to be charged with organising an unauthorised demonstration under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Although he appears too have been told that he might not be facing more than 3 months in prison if convicted, the law actually states:

136 Offences under sections 132 to 135: penalties

(1) A person guilty of an offence under section 132(1)(a) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or to both.

A fine of Level 4 on the standard scale is up to £2500

Press Release:

Continue reading "Milan Rai is the first person charged with organising a demonstration under SOCPA Designated Area law is due in Bow Street Magistrates' Court, 2pm Thursday 16 March 2006" »

February 21, 2006

On trial for a banner saying 'I am not the Serious Organised Criminal'

Barbara Tucker will be on trial Wednesday 22 February for protesting near Parliament without authorisation.

The trial is at 2pm at Bow St Magistrates Court.

She was arrested, holding a banner saying 'I am not the Serious Organised Criminal', while standing with Brian Haw. She had notified the police and is the first person to have been arrested while on their own.

UPDATE: It seems that Barbara has been convicted, but we are still awaiting the details.

January 24, 2006

Another 5 convictions under the SOCPA Designated Area law


It looks as if all 5 defendants in Monday's trial at Bow Street Magistrates' Court , who faced charges under the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Act section 132 relating to their arrests on August 7th 2005, have all been convicted, each of them being fined £50 and with a year's conditional discharge, and of course, a criminal record.

Thanks to Woody for the photo and a court report:

Continue reading "Another 5 convictions under the SOCPA Designated Area law" »

January 19, 2006

Mark Barrett's SOCPA Designated Area trial postponed until March 31st 2006

Mark Barrett's case, stemming from his arrest at the August 28th 2005 Sunday Picnic in Parliament Square, was due to have been heard on Wednesday 17th January 2006.

However, due to some "emergency cases" which jumped into the Bow Street Magistrates' Court schedule, it now seems to have been postponed until Friday 31st March 2006 at 10am.

The 4 Police prosecution witnesses had objected to the Wednesday 17th January date as it clashed with their holidays, but they, like the defendant and his supporters had to sit around pointlessly all afternoon.

Read another fine court report by rikki

Was the charge actually that of organising a demonstration as had been threatened, or the less serious one of just participating in one ?

January 17, 2006

Forthcoming SOCPA Designated Area court appearances

These forthcoming trials are all of peaceful, non-violent people who have simply been exercising their fundamental human rights rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, in a traditional and time honoured location for political discussions, protests and demonstrations.

They posed no security threat whatsoever, and they did not disrupt the workings of Parliament in any way.

It does not matter whether you agree with any or all of their political or religous causes, this unjust law also applies to you as well.

By harassing the demonstrators through the legal system in this way, the Government is letting the enemies of democracy win a propaganda victory, by supressing spontaneous demonstrations in a way which btings the Government, the Police and the Court system into disrepute.

Please write to your Member of Parliament and urge them to repeal sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Poluce Act 2005,, or at least, to vastly reduce the size of the Designated Area.

PRESS RELEASE Tuesday 17 January 2006



The trial of a man who was taking part in a free speech 'tea party' on Parliament Square will take place on Wednesday. Mark Barrett was arrested on 28 August 2005 under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) for being part of an unauthorised 'demonstration' (despite the fact that this 'demonstration' was in fact a picnic with a group of friends). [A]

Since the new law was introduced there has been a weekly picnic and 'People's Commons' discussion in Parliament Square, both of which seek to challenge the protest exclusion zone and to highlight its implications for freedom of speech and association as enshrined into UK law in the Human Rights Act of 1998. [B]

Mark Barrett was arrested while sitting on the grass drinking tea and eating cake. Although, five other picnickers have been arrested (on a different occasion), charges against them were dropped. Supporters will join Mark outside the court on 18 January, for a reconstruction of the picnic at which he was arrested at 1.30pm.

Mark Barrett said, 'Our picnic is a creative response which challenges the unconstitutional SOCPA legislation, which arbitrarily criminalises any public behaviour and all spontaneous peaceful expression around Parliament: a huge and telling affront to our supposed democracy.'

On Thursday 19 January, Chris Coverdale, who was arrested in Parliament Square for holding an unauthorised demonstration against the occupation in Iraq, will also be on trial at Bow St Magistrates Court (at 10am). [C]

It now seems that this court appearance has been postponed until March 7th

On Monday 23 January, a further five people will be on trial at Bow St Magistrates Court at 10am. The five were arrested on 7 August at a demonstration in Parliament Square held specifically in defiance of the new restrictions on protest in the area. [D]

One of the five, Emma Sangster said, 'Protest is becoming increasingly prohibited and criminalized, yet it is through protest that the rights which we all take for granted, including freedom of speech and association, have been won over the centuries. Now, where it matters most, at the heart of power in this country, the police take the decision as to who may protest and how they can do it. Things are in a sorry state when the freedoms of speech and association are regulated by what amount to political decisions by the police.'

CONTACT Mark Barrett on 07854 390408 and Emma Sangster on 07791 486484
See and for more information

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Supporters will stage a reconstruction of the picnic at which Mark was arrested outside Bow Street Magistrates Court at 1.30 on Wednesday 18th January.

[A] Under the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (April 2005) anyone wishing to demonstrate within 1km of Parliament must apply to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner at least 6 days in advance or, if not "reasonably practicable", 24 hours in advance. Permission must be granted but the Commissioner can impose draconian conditions on the protest including: when and where it can take place; how long it can last; how many people can attend; how much noise can be made; and the number and size of banners and placards used.

[B] For more details on the circumstances of Mark Barrett's arrest see,9061,1559299,00.html

[C] See for more details

[D] For more details of the demonstration in defiance of the new restrictions on protest around Parliament see

January 11, 2006

Day 3 - 1st Aug SOCPA trial - all 4 defendents found guilty - updated

It seems that, according to rikki posting to IndyMedia:

the trial of four defendants accused of participating in an unauthorised demonstration in the designated area around parliament on the 1st august last summer ended today with all four being found guilty. full court report to follow shortly.

the four defendants were given small fines or conditional discharges, and told to pay small costs.

it is likely the defendants will appeal.

We await more details soon.

UPDATE: rikki has now published his

full court report on socpa trial and mysterious side issues

This contains the astonishing words by the Magistrate Nicholas Evans

the magistrate came back with a scenario of a peaceful and quiet demonstration which he then suggested became a hindrance to parliament when (AND I QUOTE HIM!!) "some rastafarians enter happy clapping mode" (i kid you not!!) - he asked whether it would be reasonable for the demo to suddenly become illegal for all participating in it?

As with the previous prosecution of Maya Evans, the Magistrate would not rule on the Human Rights Act implications of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, taking the view that these would matters for a higher court to consider.

rikki's points about the non-arrest of the Stop the War Coalition organisers, the non-arrest of Jeremy Corbyn MP and about the first man who was actually arrested, but who seems to have disappeared, are also well made.

Continue reading "Day 3 - 1st Aug SOCPA trial - all 4 defendents found guilty - updated" »

January 10, 2006

Day 1: Aug 1st SOCPA trial - Met Police Sergeant's claims of "safety fears" seem rather exaggerated

The reports of yesterday's Bow Street Magistrates' Court trial of the 4 people facing charges under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Section 132, for "demonstrating" without prior written permission within the Designated Area around Parliament Square have started to appear.

Compare and contrast the Metropolitan Police Sergeant's fears for the safety" of his men" claims, according to this BBC report with the Bloggerheads analysis of photos taken during this first set of arrests under the SOCPA Designated Area powers on 1at August 2005.

Also note the discrepancy regarding who was using a Loudspeaker - it was Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour, Islington North), not the person who was arrested as "the focal point of the protest".

N.B. the Section 137 offence of using a Loudspeaker was not an arrestable one on 1st August 2005, but, now, after the commencement of SOCPA Section 110 this 1st January 2006, you can now be arrested for doing so.

According to this Indymedia report, it also appears that seven people were arrested on the 1st of August, but two people do not seem to have faced charges - who was the Somalian woman and the guy in the sunglasses ?

4 of the 1st August 2005 arrestees appear in front of Bow Street Magistrates' Court facing SOCPA Designated Area charges

One might have expected the first people to have been arrested and charged for alleged SOCPA section 132 offences, back on the 1st August 2005, to have been the first people
to be brought before a Magistrates court. For no logical reason, the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the English judicial system managed to try and convict Maya Evans for such an offence before the first of the AUgust the 1st arrestees have faced a court, despite her ceremony at the Centoph having been held in October.

4 people appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court yesterday,, according to The Guardian:

Mr Shaer, of Stockwell, south London; Mr Gallastegui, a coach driver from Harlesden, north-west London; Stephen Blum, 54, a teacher, from Battersea, south London; and Alwyn Simpson, 49, a local government officer from west London, face charges under the act. Mr Gallastegui is also charged with obstructing a police officer. The four deny the offences.

A fifth arrestee has had the charges dropped against her on the grounds of ill health.

The case will continue to be heard today Tuesday 1oth January 2006.

Another set of peaceful demonstrators are due to face court on January 19th.

December 7, 2005

Maya Evans convicted under section 132 of SOCPA - given a conditional discharge

The BBC reports that Maya Evans has been convicted.

Maya Anne Evans, 25, a vegan cook from Hastings, was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

She was arrested in October after reading out names of soldiers killed in Iraq at central London's Cenotaph.

Bow Street magistrates gave her a conditional discharge.

According to Sky News preview of tomorrow's newspapers, both the right wing Daily Mail and the left of centre Independent give over their front pages to highlight this restrction on free speech..

Maya Evans case was specifically discussed by David Cracknell of the Sunday Times and Lembit Öpik a Liberal Democrat MP, who said of the restriction on free speech being reported on the front pages of the Daily Mail and The Independent, "It is as bad as it sounds".

Continue reading "Maya Evans convicted under section 132 of SOCPA - given a conditional discharge" »