Caroline Lucas to be prosecuted for protesting

Caroline Lucas to be prosecuted for protesting

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Introduction

On 25th September 2013 the CPS announced that Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavillion, and the only Green Party MP in the UK, will be prosecuted following her attendance at an anti-fracking protest last month.

 

Charges

Ms Lucas faces two charges –

1. Failing to comply with a direction given by the Police

Under s14 Public Order Act 1986, if the police consider that, in all the circumstances, a public assembly :

(a) may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or

(b)the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or to do an act they have a right not to do,”

then they can give directions as to the location, duration, or maximum number of attendees at a protest.

There are three separate offences that this section creates, depending on the individuals role in the protest. A protester that fails to comply with the direction can be fined (maximum Level 3 fine). Someone who is organising the protest, or someone who incites others to breach a direction, can be sent to prison for a maximum of 3 months or a Level 4 fine.

There are no sentencing guidelines.

 

2. Obstructing the Highway

This is an offence under s137 Highways Act 1980. Someone is guilty of an offence if “without lawful authority or excuse, [they] in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway“.  The maximum sentence is a Level 3 fine.

 

Defences

As well as ‘factual defences (as in “it wasn’t me”), there are potentially arguments over the reasonableness and lawfulness of the behaviour of the police and the protesters, as well as arguments relating to the ECHR and the right to peaceful protest. We will look at those in detail when the case has finished.

 

What happens now?

She is due for a first appearance at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on 9th October. Although these offences will conclude in the Magistrates’ Court and there won’t be a jury trial, we will refrain from saying anything more about it until the case has concluded.

 

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

2 COMMENTS

  1. We can make no judgment. The facts here even per the CPS/police in this matter are may I remind everyone unknown facts until all of the witnesses and footage are heard or seen.


    Hypothetically, let’s debate. If Mr A. blatantly is in breach of the law, in that a direction is not complied with, which is in force to prevent realistic and likely damage to property including business carrying on, and no ECHR arguments succeed. ECHR defences I believe cannot succeed, in particular, if it can be shown that the crowd present were committing other public order offences and presence of the person, indeed, aware of the consequences, encouraged wider participation in these or aggravated the offences.

    Here what is the redress against Central and Local Government if they have both failed to debate a new technology in Parliament, or new Compulsory Purchase or similar adequately, or even any controversial scheme, such as hypothetically an NHS reform or privatisation?

    The answer is not ‘blowing in the wind’ nor now to attend protests. It involves mobilising so much of social media in such a way that people change the way they vote. That is what a civilised country is for. That is the meaning of politics. I will say no more on the subject but those are my views. The alternative is welcome to Syria. Sadly.

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