Police accused of 'suppressing' anti-monarchist sentiment ahead of royal wedding

 

Police adopted an “impermissibly low tolerance to public protest” ahead of last year’s royal wedding, lawyers representing anti-monarchist activists who were pre-emptively detained to stop them protesting it have told the High Court.

The accusation came on the first day of a judicial review hearing into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of public protests, which could have significant implications for how the Olympic Games are policed this summer.

A group of 20 activists, who were among scores searched and detained during or before the ceremony, have asked the court to rule that the Commissioner of Police operated an unlawful policy that violated the fundamental democratic right to protest.

Their lawyers accused the Met of effectively “suppressing anti-monarchist sentiment” yesterday. They hoped the case would be heard in time to influence policing at the forthcoming Jubilee celebrations but Lord Justice Richards, who is hearing the judicial review application in London with Mr Justice Openshaw, said that was unlikely, opening up the possibility of a similarly robust policing plan next week.

Karon Monaghan QC, appearing for 15 applicants, said her clients were all pre-emptively arrested on Friday April 29 2011 when Prince William married Kate Middleton. Their arrests occurred in four separate locations in central London, when police officers said they suspected them of being about to commit breaches of the peace.

Ms Monaghan said those she represented were held at police stations and the signal for their release from custody was “the balcony kiss” of the royal couple.

The case touched upon “the most important of constitutional rights, namely the rights to free expression and to protest, both of which are elemental to a properly functioning democracy”, Ms Monaghan told the court.

In policing the royal wedding, the Met “operated a policy of equating intention to protest, whether perceived or actual, with intention to cause unlawful disruption”.

The commissioner’s lack of tolerance for the protests resulted in the “unlawful arrests of those who were viewed by officers as being likely to express anti-monarchist views”, she said.

It was not being argued that the right to protest was absolute, “it is not but it is recognised as a preciously guarded freedom”, Ms Monaghan said.

A previous direct attack on the Prince of Wales’ car was one of the factors taken into account by the Met when they drew up their plans for policing the wedding, the judges heard.

Met lawyers are denying the existence of an unlawful policy of arrest and detention. They say it is clear from contemporary documents and statements from officers that those in charge were well aware of the distinction between lawful, peaceful protest on the one hand and preventing breaches of the peace and criminality on the other.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project