Network for Police Monitoring - Restriction on Protest and Common Protest Offences


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Police powers to restrict protest, and frequent protest related offences

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Network for Police Monitoring - Restriction on Protest and Common Protest Offences

  1. 1. Network for Police MonitoringTraining Day 18 April 2010<br />Restriction on protest and common protest offences<br />Restrictions on protest - Public Order Act 1986<br />Disorderly behaviour ‘Section 5’<br />Breach of the peace<br />Obstruction of the highway <br />Assault/Obstruct PC <br />
  2. 2. Restrictions on Processions<br />s12: A senior police officer (on the scene) may impose restrictions he reasonably believes are:<br />necessary to prevent serious public disorder;<br />serious criminal damage; <br />serious disruption to the life of the community; or<br />if the gathering is for the purpose of intimidating others.<br />Restrictions must be reasonably necessary to prevent the above, and can include conditions as to the route of the procession or prohibiting it from entering any public place<br />Offence - knowingly fail to comply with a condition (defence - circumstances beyond control.)<br />s13: A chief police officer can ban a procession from an area within his control for three months with consent of the Secretary of State. It is a criminal offence to contravene such a banning order. <br />Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 powers to disperse 2 or more people whose behaviour is or is likely to cause ASB (s30) CAN be used against processions (R(Singh) vChief Constable of West Midlands Police ) – but has to be properly justified. <br />
  3. 3. Restrictions on Assemblies<br />s14: A senior officer can impose conditions on public assemblies, either in advance or at the time of the assembly "to prevent serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community." Conditions:<br />the number of people who may take part;<br />the location of the assembly; and<br />its maximum duration.<br />It is an offence to knowingly fail to adhere to a condition. <br />s16: Defines an assembly as two or more persons in a public place, which is wholly partly open to the air. <br />NB - Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 powers to disperse 2 or more people whose behaviour is or is likely to cause ASB (s30) CANNOT be used in relation to a legal procession. (s30(5)(b)) <br />
  4. 4. Disorderly behaviour S. 5 Public Order Act 1986<br />Using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displaying signs, in public or from a private place that is audible or visible from a public place, <br /> AND<br />It occurs within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.<br />A constable may arrest a person without warrant if s/he warns him/her to stop, and that person engages in further offensive conduct immediately or shortly after the warning.<br />Offensive conduct is conduct that the constablereasonably believes would constitute an offence under this section.<br />It is a defence to show that your words, behaviour or signs were reasonable.<br />
  5. 5. Section 5 continued<br />Section 5 and police officers<br />Officers are trained to deal with public order situations and “words and behaviour with which police officers will be wearily familiar will have little emotional impact on them save that of boredom.” Therefore the threshold for an officer for a s.5 offence would generally be higher than a ‘civilian’ but the context is key.<br />So although an officer can be a "person likely to be caused harassment alarm or distress" by another's "threatening insulting or abusive behaviour" if the officer is not caused or should not be caused harassment alarm or distress by such words or behaviour, it is unlikely that he will be able to arrest that person unless other civilians are present. (DPP v Orum [1989])<br />Whether a slogan or banner used at a event falls within this section is down to what a reasonable person would consider. <br />Punishment – FPN. Have 21 days to notify court you wish to contest it. Or a fine at Court . As no custodial sentence possible - difficult to obtain public funding to defend yourself;  <br />Summary offence so Magistrate’s Court only & therefore no jury to argue in front of.<br />
  6. 6. Breach of the Peace<br />Definition: “an act done or threatened to be done which either actually harms a person, or in his presence, his property, or is likely to cause such harm being done’–R v Howell (Errol)[1982]<br />Imminent breach - the criteria for arrest: Bibby v Chief Constable Of Essex Police [2000]<br />There must be the clearest of circumstances and a sufficiently real and present threat to the peace to justify the extreme step of depriving of his liberty a citizen who is not at the time acting unlawfully -- Foulkes. <br />The threat must be coming from the person who is to be arrested -- Redmond-Bate. <br />The conduct must clearly interfere with the rights of others -- Redmond-Bate. <br />The natural consequence of the conduct must be violence from a third party -- Redmond-Bate. <br />The violence in (4) must not be wholly unreasonable -- Redmond-Bate. <br />The conduct of the person to be arrested must be unreasonable -- Nicol.<br />Extent of lawful detention: “where there is a real (rather than fanciful) apprehension based that if released the prisoner will commit or renew his breach of the peace within a short time. Continued detention cannot be justified on the ground that sooner or later the prisoner if released is likely to breach the peace” Chief Constable of Cleveland Police v McGrogan [2002]<br />Use of force: “a police officer, ..., is entitled to take such steps as are necessary to prevent it, including the use of force." Albert v Lavin [1982] – Same rules apply as in other arrests<br />NB: Arrest can lead to being taken the Magistrates Ocurt and being bound over to keep the peace. A bindover is not a criminal conviction and the police cannot take your fingerprints and DNA if you were arrested merely for breach of the peace, as it is not a “recordable offence”<br />
  7. 7. Obstructing the highway<br />Section 137 Highways Act 1980<br />A person is guilty of an offence if they, <br />without lawful authority or excuse, <br />in any way wilfully obstructs <br />the free passage along a highway <br />There is a specific right to use a public highway: <br />the right to pass and re-pass along the highway (including the pavement), <br />and the right to make ordinary and ‘reasonable use’ of the highway. <br />The offence is obstructing the highway, not other highway users. <br />Lawful excuse = whether the activity was reasonable . The test is always objective. <br />To hold peaceful assemblies that do not prevent other people from also using the highway is likely to be seen as a ‘reasonable use’ of the highway. <br />No warning from police required but w/o warning = more likely to be reasonable <br />Deciding whether or not there is a reasonable excuse for causing an obstruction is decided at higher threshold if one or more ECHR convention rights is in play, for example the right to freedom of expression under Article 10. <br />Again summary offence so heard in Magistrates Court and no jury – punishment is a fine<br />
  8. 8. Assault/Obstruct PC <br />Police Act 1996 Section 89<br />s.89 (1) It is an offence to assault a constable in the execution of his duty, or a person assisting a constable in the execution of his duty, <br />s.89 (2) -The offence of obstructing a police officer is committed when a person wilfully obstructs a constable in the execution of his duty, or a person assisting a constable in the execution of the constable's duty. <br />A person obstructs a constable if he prevents him from carrying out his duties or makes it more difficult for him to do so. The obstruction must be 'wilful', meaning the accused must act (or refuse to act) deliberately, knowing and intending his act will obstruct the constable: (Lunt v DPP [1993]). The motive for the act is irrelevant. <br />Both offences are summary only and so Magistrates Court (no jury). <br />Assault – Punishment up to 6 months in prison or fine, or both. <br />Obstruct - Punishment up to 1 month in prison or fine, or both. <br />