05:57, November 06 278 0 theguardian.com

2019-11-06 05:57:05
Extinction Rebellion protesters may sue Met after protest ban ruled illegal

Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion protesters may now sue the Metropolitan police for unlawful arrest after the high court quashed an order banning the group’s protests in London last month.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday morning, Mr Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Chamberlain said the section 14 order imposed during XR’s “autumn uprising” in October was unlawful.

Dingemans said: “Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if coordinated under the umbrella of one body, are not a public assembly within the meaning of ... the Act.

“The XR autumn uprising intended to be held from 14 to 19 October was not therefore a public assembly … therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it under … the Act.”

However, the judges noted there are powers within the Act which may be used lawfully to “control future protests which are deliberately designed to ‘take police resources to breaking point’.”

The case was brought by seven prominent supporters of XR: Baroness Jenny Jones, Caroline Lucas and Ellie Chowns of the Green party, the Labour MPs Clive Lewis and David Drew, the Labour activist Adam Allnutt and the Guardian environment writer George Monbiot.

Jones said: “This is an historic win because for the first time we’ve challenged the police on overstepping their powers and we’ve won. It’s great.”

The ban was implemented under Section 14 of the Public Order Act at 9pm on Monday 14 October and lasted until 6pm on Friday 18 October. In the meantime, according to Metropolitan Police figures, more than 400 Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested.

Before the ruling, human rights lawyer Tobias Garnett, who was working with Extinction Rebellion’s legal strategy team, warned that protesters arrested under the order would be likely to bring legal cases against the Met if the order was ruled unlawful.

“It means there are a couple of hundred people whose arrests were maybe unlawful,” he said. “That means they might have a cause of false imprisonment.”

The issuing of the order was criticised by the civil rights groups Amnesty International UK, Article 19 and Liberty as an assault on the right to protest.

More details soon …