The Liberal Democrats will fiercely resist anti-democratic attempts to silence peaceful protests.
The Conservatives’ plans to crackdown on protests are dangerous and draconian. The appalling scenes on Clapham Common at the weekend only confirm this.
The Current Law
Peaceful protests are currently protected under the European Convention of Human Rights.
The current guidelines state that Police must start from the viewpoint of a peaceful protest and advocates the use of force as a last resort and that officers must maintain open communication with protesters at all times.
There are two Articles that relate specifically to our freedoms to protest set out in the current European Convention of Human Rights, see below:
Article 10 - Freedom of expression
"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Article 11 - Freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others
"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.
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.”
If a UK citizen feels their rights have been breached then they can take the Government to the European Court of Human Rights.
Restricting our rights to maintain public order
The Government can implement new laws to restrict the right to protest in order to maintain public order and there a several pieces of legislation that provide a framework for the police to manage organised protests such as The Public Order Act 1986.
The Public Order Act 1986
Under the Public Order Act Police have powers to place restrictions on protests such as the route of a protest. Organizers of protests must give the police the time, date, requested route and information of all the organisers to the Police and it is an offence to go ahead with a march without prior written request to the Police.
Police already have the power to request a local council ban a march if they have concerns about safety, then the local authority must gain consent from the Home Office before banning a march.
The current laws in place today already give Police the powers to prohibit protests on the grounds of safety, and to prosecute individual protesters who commit a crime while protesting, but organisations currently have the right to request to march Police consent for a march for a cause they wish to show their support for i.e. the March for Europe which was a peaceful.
Message from Ed Davey
The right to protest is at the heart of a liberal democratic society.