Protests, Demonstrations, Public Order, Rights, Restrictions

    PROTESTS, DEMONSTRATIONS, MARCHES ~ DISORDER and CRIMINAL JUSTICE & PUBLIC ORDER LAWS The UK has not a written constitution, nor a Bill of Rights; but it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it has incorporated into its law by the Human Rights Act 1988 the European Convention on Human Rights, Articles 10 & 11 of which set out the general freedom to protest and demonstrate -to gather to express a collective viewpoint. These freedoms are subject to not being exercised for unlawful purposes or in unlawful ways contained mainly in such laws of England as the Public Order Acts 1936 & 1986 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Under Public Order Act 1936 it is an offence for people to meet only if within a mile of the Houses of the Parliament when the Parliament is sitting, in numbers more than fifty; and the Department of the Environment has considered whether to continue to allow in Hyde Park and at Trafalgar Square public meetings. The right of assembly is subject to giving written notice of it to the police stating the date and time, the route, and the name and address of the organiser. The police may, if it considers that a public meeting may cause serious disorder or serious damage to property or serious disruption of the life of the community, make public meetings subject to conditions in respect of the venue and the duration of them and the maximum numbers that may meet and the route -they may dictate them; or they may ban public meetings, and in Kent -v- Metropolitan Police Commissioner 1981 (a wedding procession) the Court, although it considered the reasons of the police to be meagre, it could not overturn it unless, s. 12 Public Order Act 1986, they had not given any reason at all. The Public Order Act 1936 prohibited the wearing of political uniforms publicly if not for a ceremonial or special occasion, s. 1 Public Order Act 1986 also prohibits that if for the purpose of promoting any political object, and O’Moran -v- DPP 1975 was about the IRA. The former Act made it an offence to use abusive or threatening language in public meetings; in the latter s. 3 is about ‘affray’ referring to violence as being that which would cause a person of reasonable courage to fear for his safety, s. 2 is ‘violent disorder’ if affray by three or more together, s. 5 is ‘riot’ if affray by twelve or more persons together, under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 ‘raves’ is organising a rave after having been ordered to disperse, and ‘aggravated trespass’ is disrupting others’ lawful pursuits on private land. There have been interest groups for the protection and betterment of human assembly rights, and now British Courts also can deal with alleged breaches of those rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 –which allows also to pursue them in the European Human Rights Court. But, that the former Public Order Act resulted from the British Fascist Party’s attacks, and that O’Moran was in relation to terrorism and that there are exceptions and expectations of Britain by Europe, reasonably rules out concern over the exercise of these rights in England lawfully. The above are an outline and while laws change may be basically a useful guideline about protests and demonstrations.

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