News and other Busyness
Protests Ruled Illegal
CJA test case turn-around confirms police powers
Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 11.
PEACEFUL PROTESTS of more than 20 people were ruled illegal in a High Court test case in January.
Lord Justice McGowan and Mr Justice Collins confirmed the offence of 'trespassory assembly' in the 1994 Criminal Justice Act which gives police powers to ask a local authority to ban gatherings of more than 20 people.
Mr Justice Collins said peaceful demonstrations and vigils could be tolerated but "there was no legal right to pursue them".
The decision was made at an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions against the acquittal of two people arrested at Stonehenge in June 1995.
Margaret Jones, a university lecturer, and Richard Lloyd, a postgraduate student, both from Bristol, were arrested while taking part in a roadside demonstration along the route to Stonehenge in 1995 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield.
They were initially convicted under clause 70 of the CJA, trespassory assembly, by a Salisbury magistrate. But their convictions were overturned after they appealed to the Crown Court last year.
Then his honour Judge McClaren QC ruled the demonstration legal because they were on public land and so could not be guilty of 'trespassory' assembly.
But at the High Court the offence was finally confirmed in law, regardless of whether the land was public or private. Mr Justice McGowan said the Crown Court ruling was mistaken in law because an order banning the demonstration under the CJA had been made.
He invited the DPP to prosecute Dr Jones and Mr Lloyd again.
The decision will affect any demonstration as long as the police have first obtained an order under the CJA from the local council.
After the hearing Dr Jones said she would appeal to the House of Lords and, if necessary, take the case to the European Court of Human rights.
"This ruling is extremely bad for democracy," she said. "It supports something which is illiberal, undemocratic and wrong."