London climate activists win challenge to police ban
London climate activists win challenge to police ban
Met Police faces compensation claims from XR protesters after High Court ruling
08 November, 2019, 14:42
Lord justice James Dingemans and justice Martin Chamberlain said the Met had used powers beyond the reach of the law, Section 14 of the 1986 public order act, which can only apply to single assemblies.
"The XR [Extinction Rebellion] autumn uprising meant to be held from October 14 to 19 was not, therefore, a public assembly.the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it".
The High Court also ruled that the Public Order Act could be used to control future protests that are deliberately created to "take police resources to breaking point".
In 10 days of protests to call for urgent action on climate change and wildlife losses, which started on October 7, XR activists shut down areas around Parliament and the Bank of England and targeted London City Airport and Government departments.
The act was initially used to restrict protesters to Trafalgar Square in Central London, but police widened its powers following "continued breaches" of the order that caused disruption to Londoners.
The police made more than 1,800 arrests and charged almost 200 people during the campaign.
The Metropolitan Police can not simply dismiss its unlawful actions as a "proportionate response" to challenging circumstances and then carry on as if nothing has changed.
A supporter of climate action group Extinction Rebellion holds a placard outside the Royal Courts of Justice that houses the High Court in London on 24 October.
Labour's shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said: "It is no surprise that such a disproportionate and blanket ban on even the most peaceful of protesters in our capital was unlawful".
In their judgment, the Court agreed with Extinction Rebellion's lawyers that: "the language of Section 14 (1) itself makes clear that there is no power to prohibit rather than merely impose conditions on gatherings that have not yet begun".
The ruling, said Tobias Garnett, an Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist and a human rights lawyer in the group's legal strategy team, "vindicates our belief that the police's blanket ban on our protests was an unprecedented and unlawful infringement on the right to protest".
Green Party MEP Ellie Chowns, who herself was arrested during the protests, described it as an "immense victory" and that now it was time "to tackle the climate emergency with the urgency it deserves".
The ruling also opens the way for some of them, as individuals, to seek compensation for false imprisonment if they choose, he added.
Gracie Bradley, of civil rights organisation Liberty, said Wednesday's ruling would "help safeguard future protests from police overreach".
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