Parliament Square protesters to be evicted by Mayor
30 June 2010
As we posted earlier this month, during the build-up to the General Election a number of protesters erected tents and flags in Parliament Square, a green outside the Houses of Parliament. The protesters named the site “Democracy Village”.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, launched an action for trespass against the protestors.
We suggested that it was unlikely that the protestors would succeed in their human rights arguments, given the previous decisions of the courts in relation to Brian Haw and anti-terrorism legislation as well as the fact that the protesters have occupied a formerly public space. It would appear that Mr Justice Griffith Williams was indeed unconvinced by the protestors’ arguments. The full decision is not yet available, but according to the Guardian:
Mr Justice Griffith Williams said the mayor had “directed himself correctly, considered all the relevant matters and reached a reasoned decision which cannot be criticised”. He noted that the camp had no running water or toilet facilities and said there was evidence of criminal damage to flowerbeds, graffiti and other unlawful activity. There was also evidence that the camp was acting as a magnet to homeless people who were taking advantage of the lack of control, and evidence of heavy drinking. “I am satisfied the Greater London Authority and the mayor are being prevented from exercising their necessary powers of control management and care of Parliament Square Gardens,” he said.
Article 11(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights provides:
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.
The right is qualified, however, as is the cases with many of the rights under the Convention. It is possible to restrict the right if that restriction is “prescribed by law, 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.“
- Democracy Village: Peaceful protest under human rights law
- Emma Norton, a legal officer at Liberty, provides an excellent analysis of the law of peaceful assembly