Peter Cruickshank successful in overturning conviction of Extinction Rebellion protestor
39 Park Square barrister Peter Cruickshank successfully represented a client at his appeal at Southwark Crown Court last week. The client had been part of Extinction Rebellion’s April 2019 protests in London, and had been convicted at Inner London Magistrates Court for failing to comply with a police condition.
The April 2019 Extinction Rebellion protests were heavily reported in the news, for example: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48051776
The client had been arrested at Parliament Square when he refused to move after Superintentent Duffy of the Metropolitan Police imposed a condition under section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 requiring protestors to leave Parliament Square and instead go to Marble Arch. Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 provides:
A person who takes part in a public assembly and knowingly fails to comply with a condition imposed under this section is guilty of an offence, but it is a defence for him to prove that the failure arose from circumstances beyond his control.
The case raised interesting issues. The client understood the condition required him to move. The client accepted he heard the police officer asked him to move. The client accepted he was physically capable of moving. The client further said that ‘he wanted to get arrested’.
Mr Cruickshank ran the Appeal on the basis that the condition itself was unlawful because (i) it was not the least restrictive means available to the police and (ii) it did not strike a fair balance between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community. The second argument followed the client’s instructions to assert the importance of climate change.
Mr Cruickshank cross examined Chief Inspector Kirby of the Metropolitan Police who had a senior role in policing the Extinction Rebellion protests. Chief Inspector Kirby said in cross examination that he expected his officers to use ‘the least restrictive means available’. In evidence it became clear that Bronze Commander Superintendent Duffy had not considered any condition other than to simply move all protestors away from Parliament Square. Mr Cruickshank further argued that any temporary disruption to the local community must necessarily be mitigated by the weight of climate change.
His Honour Judge Perrins allowed the client’s appeal, noting in judgment: “In the circumstances we are not satisfied that Superintendent Duffy in fact gave any consideration to alternative, less intrusive conditions such as limiting the number of protesters or moving them out of the road and into the centre of the square so that they did not block any of the roads… Given the particular status of Parliament Square as an important protest site this was a significant omission and we are not satisfied that Superintendent Duffy addressed the necessity of the condition he was imposing properly or at all. We therefore find that the order made in respect of Parliament Square was unlawful…”
Owen Greenhall and Audrey Cherryl Mogan of Garden Court Chambers, and Simon Natas of ITN Solicitors, represented other appellants in the 4 day appeal.
Mr Cruickshank welcomes instructions on protest law, and is available to discuss the same with Instructing Solicitors. His profile can be found here https://39parksquare.com/barristers/peter-cruickshank/