Court rules parliament peace vigil is illegal

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The Independent Online

The anti-war protester Brian Haw has promised to continue his round-the-clock vigil outside Parliament despite losing a crucial legal battle over his five-year peace demonstration.

He denounced appeal court judges who yesterday overturned a ruling that controversial legislation aimed at controlling protests around the Palace of Westminster did not apply to his one-man protest, which started in June 2001, well before the law came into force.

Last July, Mr Haw won a High Court challenge to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which forces protesters planning demonstrations around the Palace of Westminster to gain police approval.

But the Court of Appeal has overturned that judgment, which will force Mr Haw to seek permission for his protest to continue and open the way for him to be evicted from his banner-filled site in Parliament Square.

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, said that it had been Parliament's "clear intention" that the new law should apply to Mr Haw. He added: "We have reached the conclusion that the parliamentary intention was clear. It was to regulate all demonstrations within the designated area, whenever they began."

The court refused to grant Mr Haw permission to stay in Parliament Square pending an appeal to the House of Lords. But Mr Haw's solicitor, Stephen Grosz, said that he had informed the Metropolitan Police that Mr Haw's protest would continue and insisted that officers were obliged to allow him to maintain his vigil.