Main

April 2, 2013

Kiron Reid, University of Liverpool: "Letting Down the Drawbridge: Restoration of the Right to Protest At Parliament"

An interesting and detailed academic legal article by Kiron Reid, Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool, which references this blog in several places:

K. Reid 'Letting Down the Drawbridge: Restoration of the Right to Protest At Parliament'. (2013) 1 Law Crime and History 16 (pp. 16-51) (.pdf) (Internet (free access)). ISSN 2045-9238.

It is an article about the law and history on protest around Parliament, including the ban that was enforced under SOCPA and the new narrower restrictions.

Given the increasing threat of internet censorship and Communications Data snooping in the UK, here is our USA based mirror copy of this article: Kiron Reid - Letting Down the Drawbridge: Restoration of the Right to Protest At Parliament (.pdf)

January 31, 2012

GLA byelaws amended regarding Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square

The new Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2001 Parliament Square Garden and surrounding area has specific restrictions aimed at Parliament Square Gardens (the green park in the middle of Parliament Square, but not the pavement or roads around it). The footways around Parliament Square gardens, including those facing the Palace of Westminster which various "peace camp" demonstrators have occupied, including the late Brian Haw , are the responsibility of the GLA and of Westminster Council.

The Greater London Authority has therefore now amended its byelaws slightly, even taking out mention of "camping equipment", which is now forbidden by the Act rather than through byelaw.

Confirmation of Byelaws for Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square Garden

Summary of key changes to Parliament Square Garden and Trafalgar Square Byelaws.pdf

Contravening these bylaws could attract a fine of up to the standard scale level 1 9£200) or, for trading offences, up to level 3 (£1000).

The most repressive power, apart from property seizures, is the power for an "authorised person" to demand your name and address, if they have "reasonable ground for belief" that "a person has contravened" one or more of the byelaws.

This is bound to lead to harassment of innocent people by the unaccountable "Heritage Wardens" employed by a private security guard company and by the vast array of other GLA employees, who will claim to be "authorised persons".

How members of the public are meant to be able to identify any genuine, properly "authorised persons" is a mystery - one high visibility yellow vest looks just like another.

Where is the the easy method for members of the public to identify and complain about the activities of such alleged "authorised persons" ?


December 19, 2011

SOCPA 2005 sections 132 to 138 Designated Area restrictions around Parliament Square repealed as of 30th March 2012

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2011

Provisions coming into force on 19th December 2011

2. The day appointed for the coming into force of the following provisions of the Act is 19th December 2011--
(a)section 141(1) (demonstrations in vicinity of Parliament: repeal of SOCPA 2005 provisions) insofar as it repeals section 137 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005(1);
(b)section 142 (controlled area of Parliament Square);
(c)section 143 (prohibited activities in controlled area of Parliament Square);
(d)section 144 (directions under section 143: further provision);
(e)section 145 (power to seize property);
(f)section 146 (power of court on conviction);
(g)section 147 (authorisation for operation of amplified noise equipment);
(h)section 148 (meaning of "authorised officer" and "responsible authority");
(i)section 149 (effect of Part on byelaws);
(j)section 150(1) and (3) (powers of seizure etc under certain regulations and byelaws);
(k)section 150(2) (powers of seizure etc under certain regulations and byelaws) insofar as it relates to byelaws made by local authorities in England.

Also


Provisions coming into force on 30th March 2012

3. The day appointed for the coming into force of section 141(1) of the Act insofar as it has not already been brought into force and section 141(2) of the Act is 30th March 2012.

Why is it taking so long to repeal this old law, even after the new Act is on the Statute Book ?

EXPLANATORY NOTE(This note is not part of the Order)

This Commencement Order brings into force sections 142 to 149 and section 150 (except for section 150(2) insofar as it relates to local authorities in Wales) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 on 19th December 2011. It also brings into force the repeal of section 137 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 on 19th December 2011.

The repeal of sections 132 to 136 and 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 is brought into force on 30th March 2012 as is the transitional provision in section 141(2) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act.

So currently, apart from the ban on loudspeakers (SOCPA 2005 section 137) , both the old SOCPA 2005 Designated Area law and the new Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 laws apply !

What is so special about the repeal of just the loudspeaker ban, that it is commenced before the rest of the repeals ?

Why was this not all brought in over one day, as soon as the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 got Royal Assent back in September 2011 ?

January 6, 2011

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Part 3 - the end to Brian Haw's peace camp Temporary Autonomous Zone in Parliament Square ?

The previous Labour government reneged on their promise to repeal the extremely controversial Serious Organised crime and Police Act 2005 sections 132 to 138, which created the current Designated Area around Parliament Square. What was the first clause of the Constitutional reform and Governance Bill, was magically removed when that Bill mutated into one which dealt mostly with Pensions and Expenses for Members of Parliament, passed, without any democratic debate, during the "wash up" period when the General Election had been called.

The new Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government is having another attempt at it:

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill has now had its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

As is typical of Home Office Bills, the most controversial sections are buried deep within the text, on the assumption that our lazy professional politicians will not bother to scrunise it, and that they will simply go through "on the nod".

Note the the retrospective legislation clauses which attempt to cover Brian Haw's existing protest peace camp, which they failed to make illegal under the SOCPA 2005 law, because he had been protesting before that legislation took effect.

Note also the banning of "sleeping equipment" or "tents" etc.

It is unclear if this ban will apply to gypsy Caravans or other Camper Vans or other Motor Vehicles which are certainly not "tents" or other "structures" or "sleeping equipment"

Part 3

Parliament Square Garden and surrounding area

Repeal of SOCPA 2005 provisions



139 Demonstrations in vicinity of Parliament: repeal of SOCPA 2005 provisions

(1) Sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (which regulate demonstrations and use of loudspeakers in the vicinity of Parliament) are repealed.

(2) The public assemblies in relation to which section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 applies, as a consequence of the repeal of section 132(6) of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, include public assemblies which started, or were being organised, before this section comes into force.

Controls on activities in Parliament Square Garden and adjoining pavements

140 Controlled area of Parliament Square

(1) For the purposes of this Part, the "controlled area of Parliament Square" means the area of land that is comprised in--

(a) the central garden of Parliament Square, and
(b) the footways that immediately adjoin the central garden of Parliament Square.

(2) In subsection (1)--

"the central garden of Parliament Square" means the site in Parliament Square on which the Minister of Works was authorised by the Parliament Square (Improvements) Act 1949 to lay out the garden referred to in that Act as "the new central garden";

"footway" has the same meaning as in the Highways Act 1980 (see section 329(1) of that Act).

Parliament Square Gardens comes under the authority of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London. The "footways" or pavements around the edge oof the central garden / park come under the authority of Westminster Council.

A Court ruled that there was no "obstruction of the pavement" as it was as deemed to be wide enough and the number of pedestrians passing by are very few (especially after the zebra crossings or pelican crossings into the central section of Parliament Square were removed a few years ago.

Brian Haw's peace camp has established a Temporary Autonomous Zone peace protest encampment ,straddling the two legal authorities.

141 Prohibited activities in controlled area of Parliament Square

(1) A constable or authorised officer who has reasonable grounds for believing
that a person is doing, or is about to do, a prohibited activity may direct the
person

(a) to cease doing that activity, or
(b) (as the case may be) not to start doing that activity.

(2) For the purposes of this Part, a "prohibited activity" is any of the following

(a) operating any amplified noise equipment in the controlled area of
Parliament Square;
(b) erecting or keeping erected in the controlled area of Parliament Square

(i) any tent, or
(ii) any other structure that is designed, or adapted, (solely or
mainly) for the purpose of facilitating sleeping or staying in a place for any period;

(c) using any tent or other such structure in the controlled area of Parliament Square for the purpose of sleeping or staying in that area;
(d) placing or keeping in place in the controlled area of Parliament Square any sleeping equipment with a view to its use (whether or not by the person placing it or keeping it in place) for the purpose of sleeping overnight in that area;
(e) using any sleeping equipment in the controlled area of Parliament Square for the purpose of sleeping overnight in that area.

What is the exact definition of "overnight" ?

(3) But an activity is not to be treated as a "prohibited activity" within subsection (2) if it is done

(a) for police, fire and rescue authority or ambulance purposes,
(b) by or on behalf of a relevant authority, or
(c) by a person so far as authorised under section 145 to do it (authorisation for operation of amplified noise equipment).

(4) In subsection (2)(a) "amplified noise equipment" means any device that is designed or adapted for amplifying sound, including (but not limited to)

(a) loudspeakers, and
(b) loudhailers.

(5) In subsection (3)(b) "relevant authority" means any of the following

(a) a Minister of the Crown or a government department,
(b) the Greater London Authority, or
(c) Westminster City Council.

(6) It is immaterial for the purposes of a prohibited activity

(a) in the case of an activity within subsection (2)(b) or (c) of keeping a tent or similar structure erected or using a tent or similar structure, whether the tent or structure was first erected before or after the coming into force of this section;
(b) in the case of an activity within subsection (2)(d) or (e) of keeping in place any sleeping equipment or using any such equipment, whether the sleeping equipment was first placed before or after the coming into force of this section.

Retrospective legislation aimed specifically at Brian Haw.

(7) In this section "sleeping equipment" means any sleeping bag, mattress or other similar item designed, or adapted, (solely or mainly) for the purpose of facilitating sleeping in a place.

(8) A person who fails without reasonable excuse to comply with a direction under subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

"level 5 on the standard scale" is a £5,000 fine ! which must surely be very disproportionate.

142 Directions under section 141: further provision

(1) A direction requiring a person to cease doing a prohibited activity may include a direction that the person does not start doing that activity again after having ceased it.

(2) A direction requiring a person not to start doing a prohibited activity continues in force until

(a) the end of such period beginning with the day on which the direction is given as may be specified by the constable or authorised officer giving the direction, or

(b) if no such period is specified, the end of the period of 90 days beginning
with the day on which the direction is given.

(3) A period specified under subsection (2)(a) may not be longer than 90 days.

(4) A direction may be given to a person to cease operating, or not to start operating, any amplified noise equipment only if it appears to the constable or authorised officer giving the direction that the following condition is met.

(5) The condition is that the person is operating, or is about to operate, the equipment in such a manner as to produce sound that other persons in or in the vicinity of the controlled area of Parliament Square can hear or are likely to be able to hear.

(6) A direction

(a) may be given orally,
(b) may be given to any person individually or to two or more persons together, and
(c) may be withdrawn or varied by the person who gave it.

(7) In this section "amplified noise equipment" has the meaning given by section 141(4);
"direction" means a direction given under section 141(1).

143 Power to seize property

(1) A constable or authorised officer may seize and retain a prohibited item that is on any land in the controlled area of Parliament Square if it appears to that constable or officer that the item is being, or has been, used in connection with the commission of an offence under section 141.

(2) A constable may seize and retain a prohibited item that is on any land outside of the controlled area of Parliament Square if it appears to the constable that the item has been used in connection with the commission of an offence under section 141.

(3) A "prohibited item" is any item of a kind mentioned in section 141(2).

No ! We should not be giving "constables" the power to seize and retain property on their own self authorisation, without a Court Order. On past performance, this power will be abused.

(4) The constable or authorised officer may use reasonable force, if necessary, in exercising a power of seizure under subsection (1) or (in the case of a constable) under subsection (2).

(5) An item seized under this section must be returned to the person from whom
it was seized

(a) no later than the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the item was seized, or
(b) if proceedings are commenced against the person for an offence under section 141 before the return of the item under paragraph (a), at the conclusion of those proceedings.

(6) If it is not possible to return an item under subsection (5) because the name or address of the person from whom it was seized is not known

(a) the item may be returned to any other person appearing to have rights in the property who has come forward to claim it, or
(b) if there is no such person, the item may be disposed of or destroyed at any time after the end of the period of 90 days beginning with the day on which the item was seized.

(7) Subsections (5)(b) and (6) do not apply if a court makes an order under section
144(1)(a) for the forfeiture of the item.

(8) The references in subsections (1) and (2) to an item that is "on" any land include references to an item that is in the possession of a person who is on any such land.

144 Power of court on conviction

(1) The court may do either or both of the following on the conviction of a person
("P") of an offence under section 141

(a) make an order providing for the forfeiture of any item of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) of that section that was used in the commission of the offence;
(b) make such other order as the court considers appropriate for the purpose of preventing P from engaging in any prohibited activity in the controlled area of Parliament Square.

(2) An order under subsection (1)(b) may (in particular) require P not to enter the controlled area of Parliament Square for such period as may be specified in the order.

(3) Power of the court to make an order under this section is in addition to the court's power to impose a fine under section 141(8).

145 Authorisation for operation of amplified noise equipment

(1) The responsible authority for any land in the controlled area of Parliament Square may authorise a person in accordance with this section to operate on that land any amplified noise equipment (as defined by section 141(4)).

(2) An application for authorisation must be made to the responsible authority by or on behalf of the person (or persons) seeking the authorisation.

(3) The responsible authority may

(a) determine the form in which, and the manner in which, an application is to be made;
(b) specify the information to be supplied in connection with an application;
(c) require a fee to be paid for determining an application.

(4) If an application is duly made to a responsible authority, the authority must

(a) determine the application, and
(b) give notice in writing to the applicant of the authority's decision within the period of 21 days beginning with the day on which the authority receives the application.

(5) The notice must specify

(a) the person (or persons) authorised (whether by name or description),
(b) the kind of amplified noise equipment to which the authorisation
applies,
(c) the period to which the authorisation applies, and
(d) any conditions to which the authorisation is subject.

(6) The responsible authority may at any time

(a) withdraw an authorisation given to a person under this section, or
(b) vary any condition to which an authorisation is subject.

(7) Variation under subsection (6)(b) includes

(a) imposing a new condition,
(b) removing an existing condition, or
(c) altering any period to which a condition applies.

(8) The exercise of a power under subsection (6) to withdraw an authorisation or to vary a condition is effected by the responsible authority giving notice in writing to the applicant.

146 Meaning of "authorised officer" and "responsible authority"

(1) This section applies for the purposes of this Part.

(2) "Authorised officer", in relation to any land in the controlled area of Parliament
Square, means

(a) an employee of the responsible authority for that land who is authorised in writing by the authority for the purposes of this Part, and
(b) any other person who, under arrangements made with the responsible authority (whether by that or any other person), is so authorised for the purposes of this Part.

(3) "Responsible authority", in relation to any land in the controlled area of Parliament Square, means

(a) the Greater London Authority, for any land comprised in the central garden of Parliament Square (as defined by section 140(2)), and
(b) Westminster City Council, for any other land.

147 Effect of Part on byelaws

(1) In section 385 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (byelaws), after

subsection (6) insert

"(6A) Byelaws under this section may not be made as respects Parliament Square Garden for the purpose of prohibiting a particular activity so far as that activity is a prohibited activity for the purposes of Part 3 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (see section 141(2) of that Act).".

(2) Any byelaw made under section 385 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 before the date on which section 141 above comes into force ceases to have effect on that date so far as the byelaw makes provision prohibiting, as respects the controlled area of Parliament Square, a particular activity that is a prohibited activity for the purposes of this Part.

(3) Nothing in this Part restricts the making of any byelaw under section 235(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 (power of councils to make byelaws) for the purpose of prohibiting, as respects the controlled area of Parliament Square, a particular activity except so far as the activity is a prohibited activity for the purposes of this Part.

The next part 4 of this Bill was probably sneaked in as part of the Parliament Square stuff abiove, but it will apply throughout the rest of England and Wales:

Part 4

Miscellaneous

Seizure powers under byelaws

148 Enforcement of byelaws: powers of seizure etc

(1) After section 237 of the Local Government Act 1972 (offences against byelaws)
insert

"237ZA Section 235 byelaws: powers of seizure etc
A byelaw made under section 235 may include provision for or in connection with

(a) the seizure and retention of any property in connection with any contravention of the byelaw, and
(b) the forfeiture of any such property on a person's conviction of an offence of contravention of the byelaw.".

(2) In section 385 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (byelaws), in subsection (4)(b) for "a trading byelaw" substitute "any byelaw under this section" Controlled area of Parliament Square

(1) For the purposes of this Part, the "controlled area of Parliament Square" means
the area of land that is comprised in

(a) the central garden of Parliament Square, and
(b) the footways that immediately adjoin the central garden of Parliament Square.

(2)
In subsection (1)--

"the central garden of Parliament Square" means the site in Parliament Square on which the Minister of Works was authorised by the Parliament Square (Improvements) Act 1949 to lay out the garden referred to in that Act as "the new central garden"; "footway" has the same meaning as in the Highways Act 1980 (see section 329(1) of that Act).

At least the huge , excessive Designated Area will be repealed, so perhaps fewer people will be stopped for carrying the Independent newspaper down Whitehall, or will be arrested and convicted for reading out the the names of British soldiers killed abroad recently, by the Cenotaph War memorial.

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 ?

July 20, 2009

Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill - repeals SOCPA ss 132-138, but substitutes new enabling powers in a 250 metre Area around Parliament Square

The Labour Government has today published its long awaited

Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill

The Good News - the abhorrent and undemocratic requirement for Prior Written Authorisation by the Police and arbitrary Restrictions on small or spontaneous demonstrations, near Parliament seems to be on its way to being repealed.

Part 4

Public order

32 Demonstrations etc in the vicinity of Parliament

(1) Omit sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15) (which regulate demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament).

Hurray !!

However, do not get too excited because:

(2) Schedule 4 (which inserts new powers into Part 2 of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) etc) has effect.

This amendment to the Public Order Act 1986 is even longer and just as complicated as the SOCPA legislation it replaces.

It does not spell out any of the details, as it is enabling legislation, allowing for the creation of arbitrary laws via Statutory Instrument Orders, which can only be accepted or rejected by Parliament, and not amended in any way.

The main difference seems to be the "area around Parliament", defined as no more than 250 metres in a straight line from the nearest point in Parliament Square, rather than the still current Designated Area of up to 1 kilometre (the current Designated Area does not extend as far as that in all directions).

Unlike the current Designated Area, this smaller Area around Parliament would exclude the front entrance of the Metropolitan Police HQ at New Scotland Yard to the west, the MI5 Security Service Thames House building to the south, extend only across Westminster Bridge but no further than the former Country Hall to the east, but would still cover most of Whitehall to the north, including the Whitehall and Horseguards Road entrances to Downing Street and the Whitehall entrance to the Ministry of Defence, if the full 250 metres is designated.

See Google Maps / StreetView

Schedule 4 -- Amendment to Part 2 of the Public Order Act 1986 etc

Continue reading "Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill - repeals SOCPA ss 132-138, but substitutes new enabling powers in a 250 metre Area around Parliament Square" »

November 26, 2008

Critical Mass win their appeal in the House of Lords

The monthly ad hoc gathering of cyclists in central London, Critical Mass, have won their case in the House of Lords, against the Metropolitan Police, who have been harassing them for prior permission, names and addresses of the non-existent "organisers" etc.

The Judgment of the House of Lords:

Kay (FC) (Appellant) v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis (Respondent)

HOUSE OF LORDS

SESSION 2007-08

[2008] UKHL 69

This ruling is narrowly on the impossible requirements for notification of Processions under the Public Order Act 1986, but it also might have wider implications for spontaneous demonstrations which are still currently banned in the wretched Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 132 Designated Area, which the Metropolitan Police have also harassed the cyclists with.

March 27, 2008

Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill - REPEAL of SOCPA sections 132 to 138 Designated Area around Parliament Square announced

The Department of Justice , under Jack Straw, has published

The Governance of Britain - Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (.pdf 98 pages)


The good news is that the very first section of this draft Bill would repeal the wretched sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Hurray !

PART 1 DEMONSTRATIONS IN THE VICINITY OF PARLIAMENT

1 Repeal of sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

(1) Omit sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c.15) (which regulates demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament)

(2) In the Table in section 175(3) of that Act (transitional provision relating to offences) omit the entries relating to section 136.

(3) In paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 to the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 (c.40) (which is about consents for the operation of loudspeakers) omit "or of section 137(1) of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005".

(4) Omit paragraph 64 of Schedule 6 to the Serious Crime Act 2007 (c.27)

This repeal includes the ban on loudspeakers.

The inchoate offences under the Serious Crime Act 2007 i.e. conspiracy, aiding and abetting the Organisation of an unauthorised Demonstration under SOCPA section 136 offences, will also be repealed. These are on the statute book, but not yet brought into force (they were due to come into force probably next month in April)

Essentially things revert back to the status quo ante and section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 62 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and section 8 of the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 will apply to the former Designated Area, just like they do in the rest of London and to the rest of England and Wales.

These Acts do not apply to the< strong>interior public spaces of the Palace of Westminster , Portcullis House, or to the churches, theatres, cinemas, pubs clubs, bars and restaurants etc.which were caught under the SOCPA Designated Area definition of a "public place"

The Bill also changes the role of the Attorney General to that of , mostly the Director of Public Prosecutions, in deciding whether or not to go ahead with a prosecution under many bits of legislation, including the Criminal Trespass on Protected Sites section 128 of SOCPA, which is not being repealed, and which will still apply to the Palace of Westminster, Portcullis House, the north side of Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence buildings , the Security Service MI5 and Secret Intelligence Service MI6 headquarters buildings and Buckingham Palace etc.

However, this is still only a Draft Bill, and the actual legislation might not be passed and come into force until next year.

In the meantime, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should rescind the Designated Area Order, which she could do with the stroke of a pen, today.

The Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service should immediately drop any pending charges or prosecutions under this soon to be repealed legislation.

Ideally, there should be a Royal Pardon and a Public Apology given to those people who have been convicted under this badly conceived, badly written SOCPA section 132 legislation. Their fingerprint and DNA profiles etc. as well as those of the people who have been arrested but not charged or not convicted, should be expunged from the criminal records and intelligence databases.

January 15, 2008

Managing Protest consultation response

Here is our short response to the Home Office's Managing Protest around Parliament public consultation which closes this Thursday 17th January 2008:

  • 1) Repeal SOCPA 2005 sections 132 to 138
  • 2) No "harmonisation" with the Public Order Act 1986
  • 3) Sessional Orders must be reformed for the 21st Century
Some possible face saving options and minor amendments:
  • Option 1: Vastly reduce the size of the Section 138 Designated Area
  • Option 2: Remove the inclusion of indoor "Public Places
  • Option 3: Clarify the ambiguous extent of the Section 138 Designated Area boundary
  • Option 4: Amend Section 132 to include a clear definition of the word "demonstration"
  • Option 5: Modify the SOCPA 2005 Section 128 Protected Site Designations
  • Option 6: Remove the Security Service MI5 Thames House "steps" anomaly

Continue reading "Managing Protest consultation response" »

December 18, 2007

Metropolitan Police - Religious Discrimination against the anti-Christmas Carol Service in Parliament Square

carol_service_2007.jpg
You are cordially invited to a public anti-Christmas carol service in Parliament Square at 6:30pm on Thursday the 20th of December 2007.

Tim Ireland from Bloggerheads is yet again organising a Christmas sing song, to show just how arbitrary and ridiculous the SOCPA ss123 - 138 Designated Area around Parliament Square really is.

In previous years, (2005 and 2006), the Metropolitan Police Service has been noticeable by their studious absence from the glare of any media publicity which might have been covering the Carol Services which Tim organised, without applying for permission.

This year, Tim has managed to "successfully apply" for Written Prior Permission to Demonstrate in the Designated Area, for an anti-Christmas.Carol Service. - exactly the same format as previous years, just singing anti-Christmas songs instead.

In other words, the Metropolitan Police Service is now in the dishonourable and unethical position of having made an Arbitrary Religious Discrimination Policing Decision, which impinges on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.


December 13, 2007

Shop An MP for demonstrating within the SOCPA Designated Area

Comedian and political activists Mark Thomas seems to be intent on getting the notorious Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 ss 132 - 138 Designated Area around Parliament Square to be applied equally also to politicians and journalists as well as to sundry peaceful demonstrators.

The Guardian reports:

Help me put Gordon in jail

If MPs pass ridiculous laws to limit our freedom, they should be forced to abide by them too

Mark Thomas
Thursday December 13, 2007
The Guardian

Rarely do first lines have the potential to cost thousands of pounds (outside of libel), and rarely do I get to write words quite like those that follow; so forgive me an over-dramatic opening sentence, but yesterday lawyers acting for me started an attempt to get Gordon Brown into the dock.

With lawyers and police working on the ongoing Donorgate inquiries, Downing Street can be quite crowded if you are trying to bring a legal action. Nonetheless, my lawyers delivered a letter to the director of public prosecutions yesterday afternoon calling for an urgent investigation into allegations that the prime minister broke the law by demonstrating unlawfully in Parliament Square last summer. If found guilty he could face 50 weeks in prison - though, after serving 10 years at No 11, he should do his bird with ease.

Continue reading "Shop An MP for demonstrating within the SOCPA Designated Area" »

November 1, 2007

"Catch all" Serious Crime Act 2007 amendment to SOCPA 2005 section 136 Designated Area around Parliament criminal penalties - aimed at this website ?

There is an amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 buried deep within a Schedule (see pages 85 and 86 out of 150 pages) of the Serious Crime Act 2007 (.pdf version, the HTML one is not yet online), which has now received its Royal Assent and is now the law, although it has not just yet been brought into force.

This is a further tightening of the screws on dissent and protests against the unpopular Labour government in the far too large Designated Area around Parliament.

The equally unpopular Opposition parties have failed in their duty of holding the Government to account, by not bothering to scrutinise this amendment in detail, let alone to reject it entirely, as they should have done.

Who exactly are the Labour political appartachiki hoping to catch under this amended legislation, who they have not been able to legally threaten, harass and intimidate under the previous version of this unpopular and repressive law ?

We fear that this catch all amendment seeks to criminalise websites like this one, and other internet based supporters of the the right to peaceful protest around Parliament and beyond,

We have never advocated breaking the law, evil as it is, but this "catch all" amendment will easily be enough to threaten us or our internet service providers etc. with arrest, DNA sampling, fingerprinting, seizure of computers etc, even if no actual charges are brought.

When this Schedule comes into force, we may have to suspend this ParliamentProtest.org.uk website.

The amendment:

Continue reading ""Catch all" Serious Crime Act 2007 amendment to SOCPA 2005 section 136 Designated Area around Parliament criminal penalties - aimed at this website ?" »

October 25, 2007

"Managing Protest Around Parliament" consulatation on SOCPA ss 132-138 Designated Area around Parliament Square

The Government have today published a public consultation document on the notorious Sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square.

There is no question but that this legislation has significantly undermined the right to peaceful protests in central London, without providing any extra real "security", It has causied lots of headaches for the Metropolitan Police, and has increased public contempt for the Government.

The Labour politicians and civil service apparatchiki seem to be desperate for a face saving way out of the shameful, hypocritical, undemocratic mess which, for which they are to blame.

Interestingly the language in the consultation paper focuses entirely on Parliament, whilst failing to provide any justification for the current and theoretical extent of the Designated Area. The Designated Area currently also encompasses Downing Street, Whitehall, Labour party HQ, Liberal Democrat party HQ, the Metropolitan Police HQ, the Home Office, the MI5 Security Service building, and the Millennium ferris wheel on the other side of the river Thames from Parliament, none of which are directly relevant to the smooth running of Parliament, which is the supposed justification for the Sessional Orders and for SOCPA sections 132 to 138.



Managing Protest Around Parliament

The consultation paper Managing Protest around Parliament stems from a Governance of Britain green paper in which the government committed to consulting on the sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act covering demonstrations near Parliament.

This consultation takes another look at sections 132-138 of that act, and explores whether there is another way to address the situation that would both uphold the right to protest while also giving police the powers they need to keep the peace.

This consultation will close on 17 January 2008.

Full consultation document (360Kb .pdf): Managing Protest around Parliament

This "public consultation" does not guarantee that they will take any actual notice of the public who might choose to express their views, but it is worth going through the motions, so that they cannot claim that nobody raised any objections to the status quo.

If you do not trust this Government sufficiently (why should you ?) to send in an individual response, you are welcome to add comments here on this blog, or to send them in via anonymous or pseudo anonymous email and we will submit them anonymously alongside our own response to this public consultation.

You can use our PGP public encryption key for info@ParliamentProtest.org.uk, if you understand how to do so.

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 Parliament-Square.org.uk

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.

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT CASE!
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.

December 7, 2006

Public Demonstrations (Repeals) Bill - Private Member's Bill in the House of Lords

Public Demonstrations (Repeals) Bill is a short Private Member's Bill which has been introduced (First Reading, no debate, as yet) in the House of Lords, It probably has little chance of being passed, but perhaps there might be a chance for some lobbying and debate and media publicity.

If passed, it would simply repeal the controversial Designated Area around Parliament Square, and the slightly less controversial ones around civil nuclear sites, and other Designated Sites, mostly military bases, so far, but technically any Crown property.

Public Demonstrations (Repeals) Bill [HL]

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend certain provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and other legislative restraints on public demonstrations; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

[...]

23 Nov 2006 : Column 432

It is well worth writing a letter or even a Christmas card, to support the Liberal Democrat Peer

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
who has proposed this Bill:

Write (the form of address for a Baroness is "Dear Lady Miller,") to:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
House of Lords
London
SW1A 0PW

Email: millers@parliament.uk or info@suemiller.org.uk

Website: www.suemiller.org.uk

The online poll on her website is currently running 2 to 1 in favour of freedom to demonstrate peacefully without prior Police permission.

Here is the Full text of the BIll. apart from the Schedule:

Continue reading "Public Demonstrations (Repeals) Bill - Private Member's Bill in the House of Lords" »

July 1, 2006

Stopped by the Met Police for reading The Independent newspaper outside Downing Street

This report in The Independent almost beggars belief. Political harassment by the Police such as this cannot be tolerated in a democracy:

Police hold mother-of-three for reading 'Independent' outside Downing Street
By Terry Kirby, Chief Reporter
Published: 01 July 2006

An anti-Iraq war protester was questioned by police outside Downing Street because she was reading The Independent.

Charity Sweet, 40, and a mother-of-three, was holding a copy of Thursday's edition which carried the headline: "Warning: if you read this newspaper you may be arrested under the Government's anti-terror laws"

Inside was an article reprinted from Vanity Fair magazine which ran across the first three pages of that day's issue of the newspaper. The article, by the writer Henry Porter, accused the Blair Government of a sustained erosion of civil liberties.

As she sat outside Downing Street, Ms Sweet was approached and questioned by a police officer. When he had finished his inquiries she was astonished to be handed a form detailing the reasons for his interest which included "reading today's Independent".

Earlier this month, Steven Jago, an accountant and also an anti-war protester and friend of Ms Sweet, was arrested by police and later charged under the Serious and Organised Crime Act. He had been carrying copies of the magazine which were confiscated by police. On Thursday afternoon, after seeing The Independent had reprinted the article, Ms Sweet decided she would demonstrate her solidarity with Mr Jago and went to Downing Street to find him. Unsuccessful, she bought a sandwich and decided to eat it while sitting down under a tree near the gated entrance to Downing Street and reading the newspaper. She was also wearing a sign around her neck warning against bullying. After some minutes she was interrupted and questioned by a Scotland Yard officer.

Ms Sweet, from Chatham in Kent, said: "It was intrusive and ridiculous to think that I could not sit there and read the newspaper when I chose to. I don't have any issues with the officer himself, he was perfectly polite and just doing his job. He asked me who I was and what I was doing there. I told him the publication of the article was history in the making and I could not think of a more appropriate place to sit down and read it. I don't think I was causing a problem for anybody." She was not cautioned or arrested.

As is normal procedure, the officer handed Ms Sweet a form which set out why a particular person is stopped and, as can happen, searched. Under the section requiring a description of what the person stopped had been doing, the officer wrote: "Sitting outside D Street with Notification Around Neck about Bullying. And Reading Today's Independent."

[...]

Which other mainstream media publications are considered to be "grounds for suspicion" by the Metropolitan Police, acting under the framework of repressive legislation and policies, through which the Labour Government is aiding our terrorist enemies to achieve their aim of destroying our traditional human rights and freedoms of thought, speech, assembly and peaceful protest ?

  • The Police Officer involved, and all of his colleagues, should be retrained to remind them that they live and work in a democracy and not a in police state dictatorship.

  • The Metropolitan Police and the Home Office should issue an immediate apology to Ms Sweet and to the Independent newspaper and to all of its readers.

May 9, 2006

SOCPA appeal verdict against Brian Haw

Unity has published, an interesting analysis : Putting the dice in the box for another throw… which dissects the Labour Government and Metropolitan Police bureaucracy's Appeal against the long term peace protestor in parliament Square, Brian Haw and his previous exmption from the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area law.

Is the full text of the Appeal Court Judgement available anywhere online ?

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 6, 2006

Maria Gallastegui wins her appeal !

Maria Gallastegui seems to have won a victory against the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 132 Designated Area law.

Victory for Maria 6 April 06:

Maria's retrial for taking part in an unauthorised demo was today thrown out of court!

Maria is one of Brian Haw's most stalwart supporters and was with Brian at his site as the 1 August demo against SOCPA was taking place on the adjacent green.

She was arrested when she went to advise someone at the demo with a megaphone that they would be arrested.

At the original trial the magistrate paid no regard to the fact that Maria was not part of the unauthorised demo and she was convicted but decided to appeal.

At the retrial at Southwark Crown Court the judges ruled there was no case to answer after the CPS had put forward its case, with very little evidence.

This case highlights what a thankless and impossible task the Metropolitan Police have in fairly and equally enforcing this stupid law.

Given the almost random way in which people are being arrested by the Police who only need "reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed", something which is entirely at the whim of an individual Police Officer, it is not clear that this case will have any effect on the behavioir of the Metropolitan Police.

It may give the Crown Prosecution Service some pause for thought when they decide whether or not to prosecute an arrestee.

April 5, 2006

Maria Gallastegui appeal at Southwark Crown Court Thursday 6th April 2006

The first appeal against a conviction under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 132 is scheduled for Thursday 6th April 2006 starting at 10 am.

Maria Gallastegui, one of Brian Haw's most committed supporters, is appealing against her conviction for demonstrating without authorisation and obstructing arrest at Southwark Crown Court, 1 English Grounds, London SE1 2HU, (by HMS Belfast) starting at 10 am.

Location Map

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

HOME OFFICE APPEALS PARLIAMENT SQUARE PROTESTOR'S RIGHT TO STAY

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]

CONTACT & INFORMATION:
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, info@parliament-square.org.uk, www.parliament-square.org.uk

NOTES:
A. www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,4515616-103690,00.html

B. www.guardian.co.uk/antiwar/story/0,,1539340,00.html

C. The provisions in question are sections 132-138 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. See www.parliamentprotest.org.uk and www.parliament-square.org.uk/defendaction.htm for details of protests against the new law and arrests.


Parliament Square Peace Campaign
for supporters of Brian Haw and the right to protest
www.parliament-square.org.uk

March 30, 2006

Mark Barrett faces trial tomorrow for holding a picnic in the public park in Parliament Square, under the SOCPA Designated Area law

Parliament Square Garden is the public park in the middle of Parliament Square. Why are people being arrested , charged and convicted for holding a peaceful Sunday afternoon tea party or picnic ?

Surely it is one of the functions of a public park to provide a space where such picnics can be held by anyone ?

PRESS RELEASE
Thursday 30 March 2006

TRIAL FOR TAKING PART IN 'TEA PARTY' WITHIN PROTEST EXCLUSION ZONE

FRIDAY 31 MARCH at 10am, BOW STREET MAGISTRATES COURT, LONDON

The trial of a man who was taking part in a free speech 'tea party' on Parliament Square will take place on Friday. 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 at the time he was having 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 controversial protest exclusion zone introduced last year 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, other picnickers have been arrested (on different occasions), charges against them were dropped.

Eleven people have been convicted so far of taking part in unauthorised demonstrations near Parliament.

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

CONTACT Mark Barrett on 07854 390408
See www.parliamentprotest.org.uk and www.peopleincommon.org for more information

NOTES
[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 http://politics.guardian.co.uk/commons/story/0,9061,1559299,00.html

January 25, 2006

No Home Office "guidance" to the Metropolitan Police regarding SOCPA Designated Area laws ?

Why has the Home Office apparently not issued any "guidance" or instructions to the Metropolitan Police regarding the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond ?

Are the NuLabour politicians trying to blame the Metroplitan Police who have the thankless task of enforcing this incompetent and repressive legislation ?

According to this Parliamentary Written Answer:

Written answers Thursday, 19 January 2006

Home Department
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act

Robert Wilson (Reading East, Con):

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance his Department has issued to the police on the implementation of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 in the vicinity of Parliament since the recent arrest and conviction of Maya Anne Evans.

Paul Goggins (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office):

No guidance has been issued on the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime Act dealing with Parliament Square. Home Office officials have worked closely with the Metropolitan police on the implementation of this legislation. We do not consider that written guidance to the Commissioner is necessary. However, we keep the need for guidance under review, in the light of operational experience.

January 20, 2006

First person to be charged with "organising" a demonstration under the SOCPA Designated Area law

What about all the "organisers" of all the other "demonstrations" which have taken place in the Designated Area since 1st August 2005 ?

Press release from Justice Not Vengeance

FIRST CHARGE FOR 'ORGANISING' UNAUTHORISED DEMONSTRATION OPPOSITE DOWNING ST

Today, Thursday 19 January 2006, Milan Rai, 40, became the first person to be charged with organising an unauthorised demonstration in the vicinity of Parliament under the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. The maximum penalty for this charge is 51 weeks imprisonment.

Rai, author and activist with the anti-war group 'Justice Not Vengeance' (JNV), was arrested on 25 October last year for organising the demonstration that led to the conviction of Maya Evans, also of JNV (2).

He was not charged then. The Crown Prosecution Service have delayed a decision, citing problems with the CCTV footage of the incident. (Maya Evans was convicted without the benefit of such footage.)

Rai and Evans were arrested opposite Downing Street, while they held a two-person ceremony of remembrance, reading the names of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers who have died in the illegal occupation of Iraq (3).

Rai, who recently spent two weeks in Lewes prison for an anti-war protest, said: 'We should not have to ask permission to remember the dead. I am prepared to go to court and I am prepared to go to prison to oppose war and the erosion of our rights.'

ENDS

Notes:
1. Milan Rai is the author of 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War (Pluto, due in April 2006)
2. Maya Evans was convicted on 7 December 2005 of taking part in an unauthorised demonstration in the Designated Area
3. See www.j-n-v.org_ for further details.

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

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 31, 2005

SOCPA Section 110 and PACE Code G come into effect at midnight - changes to SOCPA Designated Area arrests

The new Police powers of arrest, which make all offences, no matter how trivial, into arrestable offences, come into force on 1st January 2006 i.e. after midnight tonight.

These were brought into law without proper Parliamentary scrutiny in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Section 110 Powers of arrest

These new powers, which are regulated under the new statutory Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice G (.pdf) also affect the Section 136 power of arrest which has been used so far to arrest the peaceful demonstrators within the Designated Area around Parliament Square:

Continue reading "SOCPA Section 110 and PACE Code G come into effect at midnight - changes to SOCPA Designated Area arrests" »

December 27, 2005

First person in court for holding a "demonstration" on their own in the SOCPA Designated Area.

The first person to be arrested for holding a "demonstration" on their own without prior written permission from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, within the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area, is due to appear at Bow Street Magistrates Court around 10am Wednesday 29th December 2005.

We think that Barbara Tucker was arrested on Monday 19th December 2005, near Parliament carrying a banner saying "I am not the Serious Organised Criminal".

She seems to be the first person to have been arrested and charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 132(1) (c)

132 Demonstrating without authorisation in designated area (1) Any person who-

[snip]

(c) carries on a demonstration by himself in a public place in the designated area,

According to Section 136 of SOCPA, this could attract the penalty of a criminal record (DNA, fingerprints etc. retained forever) and a potential fine of up to £ 1,000

(2) A person guilty of an offence under section 132(1)(b) or (c) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

How can one unarmed person, on their own, pose any threat or hinderance to the operations of the Houses of Parliament whatsoever ?

This brings the number of people we know about, arrested so fa under SOCPA, to 22, although there may actually be more than this.

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" »

December 4, 2005

First Court appearance following an arrest under the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square

The first actual court appearance of someone arrested under the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 20005 Designated Area around Parliament Square is due this Wednesday 7th December 2005.

Maya Evans was arrested with Milan Rai on the 25th October 2005, for holding a "bell ringing" remembrance ceremony for the Iraqui war dead, near the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

It will be interesting to see if the Bow Street Magistrate sets a legal precedent, by ruling that a "ceremony" within the Designated Area is actually a "demonstration" within the meaning of section 132 of the Serious Orhganised Crime and Police Act 2005.

if such a ruling is made, then this should be a major news story, as it will have serious implications for any other Ceremonies held within the Designates Area such as the Royal British Legion Poppy Day / Remembrance Sunday Cereomonies which were held in the same location near the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Similarly the State Opening of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster and the the Trooping of the Colour Ceremonies in Horseguards Parade, also involving Her Majesty the Queen, will be affected as well.

There will also be implications for Freedom of Religon, especially for for Wedding, Funeral, or Remembrance Ceremonies etc. held in any of the Places of Worship within the Designated Area such as Westminster Abbey, or the Methodist Central Hall etc.

All of these locations are defined as "public places" under SOCPA:

(b) "public place" means any highway or any place to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission,

October 27, 2005

Future Court appearance dates

So far there have been Nineteen peope charged with demonstrating without authorisation under Section 132 of Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, with two exceptions, for the people who were arrested, but not yet currently charged with "organising".

Five people were arrested in Parliament Square on August 1st 2005 and are to be to be tried on January 9th 2006.

One of these people still has Bail Conditions which prevent him from entering the Designated Area

Five people were arrested on August 7th 2005 and are to be tried on January 23rd 2006.

One person was arrested on August 14th 2005

He has a pre-trial hearing on November 15th which will decide if his arguments re: genocide/war etc are admissible. He will then be given a trial date.

One person arrested on August 28th 2005

He is still to be charged with "organising" and will return to police station on November 9th for charging.

He had been given bail conditions which stopped him going to Parliament Square for any reason but these were dropped after the lawyers from Bindmans intervened - now he can go there but not protest.

Five people arrested on September 18th 2005
Pre-trial review on October 14th. Is there a trial date yet ?

This adds up to Seventeen

N.B. the Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation debate on Wednesday 12th October 2005 seemed to be working with a figure of 18 arrests up to that date.

Were they in error, or has an arrestee "disappeared" ?

Two people Arrested on October 25th 2005 in Whitehall opposite Downing Street.

One of these people was arrested for "organising" but has not yet been charged.
He will go back to the Police station on November 10th.

This adds up to Nineteen arrests (possibly 20).

October 14, 2005

Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation debate on the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005 is now available online

Wednesday's debate by the Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation regarding the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005 is now available online.

The actual list of Members of Parliament who attended the Committee varies slightly from that which was published earlier:

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chris Mole (Lab - Ipswich) and Anne Snelgrove (Lab - South Swindon) appeared to substitute for Anne Cryer (Lab - Keighley - member of the Home Affairs Select Committee) and Dennis Macshane (Lab - Rotherham)

Chris Mole was the person who seemed to be objecting most to any loudspeakers disturbing his Parliament Square facing office, but he did not make out any case for banning them throughout the huge Designated Area.

Our previous report about who exactly voted for and against was wrong:

AYES

Cohen, Harry
Goggins, Paul
Mole, Chris
Pound, Stephen
Prosser, Gwyn
Ryan, Joan
Snelgrove, Anne
Stoate, Dr. Howard

NOES

Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Heath, Mr. David
Herbert, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jones, Mr. David
Prisk, Mr. Mark

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005 (S.I. 2005, No. 1537).

i.e. Harry Cohen (Lab - Leyton & Wanstead) did join the List of Shame and did vote with the the rest of his Labour colleagues for this disproportionate legislation.

Therefore only Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Lab - Liverpool, West Derby) had his concience troubled enough by this repressive legislation to abstain from voting.

October 12, 2005

Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation approves the Statutory Instrument setting out the Designated Area around Parliament, by 8 votes to 7.

The Standing Committee for Delegated Legislation met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Designated Area Statutory Instrument.

Unfortunately this Committee could, as with all such SI's only vote to Reject or Accept the Statutory Instrument as a whole, and not to amend it.

Accordingly, despite some convincing points by the Liberal Democrat David Heath, and the Conservative Edward Garnier, and even from Harry Cohen and Robert Wareing on the Labour side, when it came to a vote, the SI was approved by 8 votes to 7.

We will link to the Hansard account of the debate when it becomes available online. (now available online)

Continue reading "Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation approves the Statutory Instrument setting out the Designated Area around Parliament, by 8 votes to 7." »

September 18, 2005

5 more arrests in Parliament Square - but were they under SOCPA ?

rikki has posted a report about Sunday 18th September's arrests in Parliament Square in a posting on the Indymedia UK website (which too often seems to suffer from technical and legal "collateral damage").

Were these arrests under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, or were they under other Police powers ?

"more arrests at parliament square under soca law today rikki | 18.09.2005 19:29 | Indymedia | London

five people were arrested late this afternoon for defying the ban on 'unauthorised protest' in parliament square under the new serious organised crime act legislation which became effective at the start of august this year

this afternoon's pro-democracy demonstration started well, with a small crowd sporting banners with many varied slogans contesting the draconian ban on protest in parliament square. armed with lists of bye-laws, protesters urged police to arrest people on all sorts of archaic and bizarre grounds, but without success. it seemed there was no quota for this afternoon!

later on, the crowd decided to move on to the south bank where preparations are underway for this evening's 'festival of light' public festival and procession attended by ken livingstone. although still in the 'designated area' the group was told by officers from lambeth police that they could carry on and so they demonstrated and informed people about the law in the area near the london eye. at one point private security guards tried to stop them, but as the police had basically given permission, they gave up a bit confused."

The Designated Area apparently comes under the jurisdiction of 3 different bits of the Metropolitan Police - most of it is under Westminster Borough Operational Command Unit (usually Charing Cross Police Station), the London Eye etc. South Bank of the Thames is under Lambeth Borough Operational Cammand Unit (probably Kennington Police Station), and then there is the Palace of Westminster Divsion (SO17).

Map of the Designated Area

"it was apparent once again that most people were unaware of this anti-democratic legislation, and many expressed surprise and disgust when they were informed.

some of the group decided to return to parliament square, and while attempting to hang a banner round churchill's neck they came to the attention of the police once again, and this time there were five arrests. it is not known whether soca legislation was used or whether other laws relating to the banner drop were used. the arrested are being held at charing cross police station this evening."

Surely that was a tactical mistake ? Posing in front of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill for press and media photos with banners is one thing, but foolishly draping or attempting to drape banners on the statue itself, was bound to be seen as "conspiracy to cause criminal damage" in the "reasonable opinion or belief" of the Police.

"meanwhile one or two protesters are still roaming the crowds at the south bank informing the crowds of this law, and hoping to both take part in the procession and to meet up with red (haha) ken as he does his customary walkabout.

to date, there have been 12 prior arrests under the new legislation and some of those waiting for charges on police bail are under condition not to return to parliament square. this condition is likely to be challenged in the courts, as of course will the whole law be if charges are finally brought.

there are ongoing protests, picnics and discussion groups at parliament square every sunday from noon, and you are all urged and welcome to attend - you can decide for yourself what level of challenge you wish to make to the law and thus whether to personally risk arrest, but at present it seems safe to simply go there and chat and picnic as police seem to be under political control and are simply targetting organisers and arresting quotas as instructed.

rikki"

If these arrests were under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, and none of the people involved have been arrested more than once, there could now be 17 people facing criminal charges, since 1st August 2005, for demonstrating peacefully about the curtailment of the right of free assembly, freedom of speech and freedom to protest or demonstrate peacefully.

August 30, 2005

The Guardian: Picnicking protester arrested outside parliament

The Guardian reports:


Picnicking protester arrested outside parliament

Matthew Tempest, political correspondent
Tuesday August 30, 2005


A free speech activist arrested after a weekend "tea party" on Parliament Square has vowed to continue the campaign against new laws which restrict the right to protest outside the House of Commons.
Mark Barrett was arrested on Sunday after a midday picnic on the grass opposite Big Ben, aimed at demonstrating the severity of the clampdown on unauthorised protests.

Today he said the Sunday tea parties - which he claims are not demonstrations, but "Mad Hatter's Tea Party meets Speaker's Corner" and therefore are not subject to the new law - would continue.

Continue reading "The Guardian: Picnicking protester arrested outside parliament" »

August 15, 2005

Activists in Court over new Anti-Protest Exclusion Zone around Parliament - Bow Street Magistrates' Court, 9.30am Tuesday 16th August

PRESS RELEASE
15 August 2005

ACTIVISTS IN COURT OVER NEW ANTI-PROTEST EXCLUSION ZONE AROUND PARLIAMENT

Bow Street Magistrates Court, 9.30am, Tuesday 16 August: Ten people arrested earlier this month during unauthorised demonstrations in the new anti-protest "exclusion zone" around Parliament will appear in court on Tuesday morning to plead "not guilty" to charges of participating in an unauthorised protest in the zone "without lawful authority or reasonable excuse." Among other things the ten - who will be outside the court at 9.30am with a banner reading "Defending the Right to Protest" - are expected to challenge the legality of the zone, which effectively removes the right to meaningful protest within 1km of the House of Commons.

Five of the defendants were arrested during a 1 August protest in Parliament Square organised by the Stop the War Coalition [A]. The remainder were arrested during a 'Mass Act of Defiance' in the Square on 7 August [B]

Under the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (April 2005) anyone wishing to demonstrate in the "designated area" around Parliament - which includes the Square, extends as far as the London Eye and includes all of Whitehall and a large part of Westminster - 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 [A].

One of the defendants, Emma Sangster said: "The new Act allows the police to make political decisions as to who may protest - and how - near Parliament, something clearly unacceptable in a free society. Protest and dissent are the source of many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today and have played a crucial role in helping to end injustices such as Apartheid. We intend to challenge the legality of this zone and to expose just how unjust and draconian it is."

PRESS CONTACTS
Prasanth Visweswaran 07838 101491, Emma Sangster 07791 486484

NOTES
[A] See http://politics.guardian.co.uk/commons/story/0,9061,1540521,00.html
[B] See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4742589.stm
[C] For more information on the Act see
www.parliament-square.org.uk/defend.htm and www.parliamentprotest.org.uk

Continue reading "Activists in Court over new Anti-Protest Exclusion Zone around Parliament - Bow Street Magistrates' Court, 9.30am Tuesday 16th August" »

August 6, 2005

Legal Briefing leaflet - Mass Act of Defiance demonstration in Parliament Square Sunday 7th August 2005 midday

A legal briefing leaflet has been produced, ahead of tomorrow's Mass Act of Defiance demonstration in Parliament Square, starting at noon.

For more info contact the Mass Act of Defiance Group:
e-mail: massactofdefiance@fastmail.fm

Download the Legal Briefing (.pdf)

Text of the Legal Briefing leaflet:

Continue reading "Legal Briefing leaflet - Mass Act of Defiance demonstration in Parliament Square Sunday 7th August 2005 midday" »

August 1, 2005

Parliament Square protest exclusion zone protest - 5 arrests

The BBC reports that 5 demonstrators have been arrested at today's Stop the War Coaltion protest in Parliament Square, protesting against the draconian Serious Organised Crime and Police Act Designated Area.

"Last Updated: Monday, 1 August, 2005, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK Arrests over Parliament demo ban

Five anti-war activists demonstrating against a ban on unauthorised protests near Parliament have been arrested.

A ban on protests within half-a-mile of Westminster which have not been cleared by police came into force at midnight.

However, about 50 people wearing black gags to symbolise the "infringement" of their right to protest have gathered in Parliament Square in defiance.

Ministers say planned protests can be held but the rights of protesters and workers in the area must be balanced.

But campaigners say the move restricts an established right to protest.

More than a dozen police officers were at the scene, and arrests were made around an hour after the protest begun."

These restrictions do not just apply to "anti-war" protestors, (apart from Brian Haw who is exempt), they apply to everyone else, of whatever political or religous opinions.

Continue reading "Parliament Square protest exclusion zone protest - 5 arrests" »

Legal restrictions on demonstrations in the viciinity of Parliament are now fully in force - Stop the War protest at 2pm

Today, the controversial sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Security Act 2005 which curtail free democratic demonstrations or protests in the Designated Area around Parliament Square, have come fully into force.

This means that even if you have applied for, and received prior written permission from the Metropolitan Police for your
"demonstration" (a term which is itself unclear legally), then arbitrary Conditions can be applied including, but not limited to:


"(a) the place where the demonstration may, or may not, be carried on,
(b) the times at which it may be carried on,
(c) the period during which it may be carried on,
(d) the number of persons who may take part in it,
(e) the number and size of banners or placards used,
(f) maximum permissible noise levels."

These arbitrary Conditions can be modified, or new Conditions imposed, by the senior Police Officer on the spot.

The criminal penalties for demonstrating without prior permission, for refusing to obey these any Conditions even if you have got prior written permission, or for any use of loudspeakers (as defined by the Act) have all come into force today.

The Stop The War Coalition has called for a demonstration in Parliaemnet Square from 2pm onwards, to protest against these excessive restrictions on spontaneous demonstrations without prior written permission by the Metropolitan Police.

Will the Parliament Square Jam Cam which gives a periodic snapshot vire of Parliament Square, including Brian Haw's peace protest magically devlop a fault, or go offline "for operational reasons", during the Stop the War demonstration ?

See if you can spot any of the Metropolitan Police Public Order Unit, will be able to police this demostration properly, and determine exactly who has, and who has not, got prior written permission to demonstrate.

Will there be any of the peaceful demonstrators be arrested ?

July 29, 2005

More legal details about the Brian Haw's Judicial Review

The Press Association has a few more of the legal details concerning Brian Haw's Judicial Review in the High Court of the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament and beyond.

Continue reading "More legal details about the Brian Haw's Judicial Review" »

Brian Haw wins his legal loophole case and can continue to protest in Parliament Square - but the restrictions still apply to everybody else

The BBC reports that Brian Haw has won his legal loophole case against the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, and can continue his protest.

This must be hugely embarassing for the Government which brought in the controversial legislation partly, but not wholly, to restrict his long running peace camp protest in Parliament Square.

"Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Parliament protester wins battle

A man who has held a four-year anti-war protest outside Parliament, has won a legal battle to continue his vigil.

From 1 August all protests in a half-mile zone in Westminster, London, must have prior permission from police.

But the High Court has ruled Brian Haw, 56, from Worcestershire, who claimed he was exempt as his protest pre-dated the new laws, can continue his protest.

The government said Mr Haw posed a potential security risk and described his argument as "absurd".

Lawyers for Mr Haw said his demonstration had begun four years ago and therefore he did not have to apply for authorisation, even though the law was actually targeted at him.

Lady Justice Smith, sitting with Mr Justice McCombe and Mr Justice Simon, said the new law did not catch Mr Haw because of a drafting error.

She said: "If Parliament wishes to criminalise any particular activity, it must do so in clear terms. If it wishes to do so, Parliament can amend this Act.""

Nowever, the rights and freedoms of all of the rest of are still restricted by these stupid and disproportionate Designated Area regulations.

The Global Womens' Strike weekly protest may also be exempt, since they have also been regularly demonstrating for over 2 years. However their activities might be classed as a series of separate demonstrations, so their next one would fall foul of the new law. Their use of "open mike" loudspeakers will simply be banned under the new law either way.

July 26, 2005

BBC: "Parliament protester wins review"

The BBC reports that Brian Haw's legal loophole challenge to the Serious Organised Crime and Security Act 2005, is being considered by a panel of three High Court Judges, who will rule on it by the end of the week.

Unfortunately, even if the High Court rules in favour of Brian Haw, the legal precedent will not apply to the vast majority of other people who might wish to demonstrate in the Designated Area in the future.

It is not clear from the Home Office's Freedom of Information Act disclosure,

"9) Will a short walk in and around the Parliament Square "Designated Area" entail getting prior permission from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police if you happen to be wearing a "political slogan" T-shirt or badge ?

9. The definition of a demonstration is ultimately a matter for the courts."

that there may have to be another test case to determime exactly what constitutes "a demonstration" under this very poorly worded new legislation, as this panel of High Court Judges will probably only be considering the narrow point of law applicable to Brian Haw.

Continue reading "BBC: "Parliament protester wins review"" »