Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Extinction rebellion protests - a Section 14 Order

Updated 7 November 2019

Global climate change is an issue to be taken seriously. I readily admit to having been among the sceptics until I came across the serious and well-presented examination of the subject on the NASA website - Global Climate Change - Vital signs for our planet - where it is stated that scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.  It is claimed that - "The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia."

Extinction Rebellion
is a protest movement which describes itself as - "An international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency" - BBC Newsround 15 October 2019.

Protests in London have been taking place over a number of days.  The BBC Newsround article reports that the aim is to cause "major disruption", to encourage governments to do more to deal with the issue of climate change and that over 1400 people have been arrested in London with over 70 people charged with offences including criminal damage and obstruction of a highway.

The Metropolitan Police issued a statement on Monday 14 October banning the protests in London. The order is under the Public Order Act 1986 section 14.  The Police announcement notes - "After nine days of disruption we felt it is entirely proportionate and reasonable to impose this condition because of the cumulative impact of these protests."

Section 14:

A public assembly is defined as an assembly of 2 or more persons in a public place which is wholly or partly open to the air - section 16.

Section 14 is a Police power to give directions. The "senior police officer" must reasonably believe (an objective test) that the assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community - s14(1)(a) - OR must reasonably believe that the purpose is to intimidate others - s14(1)(b).

The Police may then impose conditions as to where the assembly may be held (or continue to be held), its maximum duration, or the maximum number of participants. The conditions imposed must appear to the senior Police Officer to be necessary to prevent the serious disorder, damage, disruption or intimidation which the section is intended to avoid.

By section 14(2), the "senior police officer" means - (a) in relation to an assembly being held, the most senior in rank of the police officers present at the scene, and (b) in relation to an assembly intended to be held, the chief officer of police.

Section 14 engages Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights -
Article 11 – Freedom of assembly and association
  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
  2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
It remains to be seen whether any legal challenge will arise from the section 14 order now imposed by the Metropolitan Police. 

Notes:

The Queen's Speech on 14 October 2019 announced legislation to enshrine environmental protections in law including new legally-binding environment improvement targets.

For an overview of European Union Environmental Targets see - European Environment Agency

The UK government has stated that it will uphold environmental standards in the event of a no-deal Brexit. An Environment Bill received its 1st reading on 15 October 2019.


Extinction Rebellion was officially launched at the end of October 2018, and began their first protest in November, when they occupied five bridges across the Thames - Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth. In April 2019, the group occupied five well-known locations across central London, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge, and the area around Parliament Square.The occupation lasted 11 days and brought the capital to a standstill with more than 1,100 arrests.

College of Policing - Public Order - Core principles and legislation

Media:

BBC News 19 April 2019 - Climate protests: How do Police control demonstrations?

The Telegraph 10 October - What do Extinction Rebellion want from their protests - and where in London are they taking place?

The Guardian 11 October - Extinction Rebellion: Who are the protesters, and why are they doing it?

The Guardian 14 October 2019 - Police ban Extinction Rebellion protests from the whole of London

The Guardian 15 October 2019 - Extinction Rebellion activists defy London-wide protest ban

Update 1:

The Guardian 16 October - Extinction Rebellion defies protest ban and targets Google - Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion have filed an urgent application for a judicial review hearing at the high court in London, as the number of arrests in 10 days of demonstrations rose to 1,642 with 133 charged.

BBC News 17 October 2019 - Extinction Rebellion protesters target London Underground

Update 2 - 7 November 2019

See the judgment in R (Jones and others) v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [2019] EWHC 2957 (Admin) - Dingemans LJ and Chamberlain J. 

2 comments:

  1. Article 11 apart, I think this (over-)use of s14 would be vulnerable to challenge on Padfield grounds. The intention of that section of the Act is clearly not to enable the police to stop a 'public assembly' altogether, by instructing that the place it should be held is nowhere and the maximum numbers attending zero.

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    1. I think so too. The Padfield principle seeks to ensure that public authority decisions are consistent with statutory policy and objects.

      Padfield House of Lords

      and a good example of Padfield applied is

      Cala Homes - Court of Appeal





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