A group of campaigners struck a blow for the right to protest when a judge ruled that police were wrong to stop them from attending a rally.
The 12 test cases were among 159 protesters who were blocked from attending a demonstration at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire two days after coalition forces launched their assault into Iraq in March 2003.
Judge David Mitchell, sitting at Central London County Court, ruled that Gloucestershire Police breached the protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. Describing them as “decent, hard-working people”, he commented they had endured “humiliating circumstances” as officers behaved in an “oppressive manner”.
By stopping the group from going to Fairfield, the police demonstrated “an interference with the right of ordinary citizens to go about their business”, the judge added.
Damages of between £4,200 and £5,100 were awarded to each of the claimants.
Following the ruling, the chief constable of Gloucestershire Police, Suzette Davenport, said policing of protests had moved on significantly since 2003, adding: “I apologise to those who intended to protest peacefully.”