Silenced - the man who spoke out too loudly: Danny Shine’s megaphone voice has been branded an ‘annoyance’ – but is it illegal?

 

When performance artist Danny Shine decided to address shoppers in London’s Oxford Circus on the follies of consumerism with the aid of a megaphone, he saw it as a public service. Unfortunately for him, a passing Westminster City Council street warden begged to differ.

As a result Mr Shine, 46, finds himself fighting an unusual human rights battle after the local authority, backed by police, seized his loudhailer and issued him with a court summons accusing him of a breaking a bylaw created by the council for “the prevention and suppression of nuisances”.

The wedding singer, from Hendon, north London, is seeking to have the 12-year-old bylaw declared unlawful as part of his fight against the charge of “causing annoyance” by claiming that it infringes his right to freedom of expression.

The flagship Conservative council insists it is only taking action against Mr Shine because of the “volume” at which he expresses his views.

But the street performer – who faces a trial before a district judge next month – claims the bylaw is being used unlawfully to clamp down on the expression of dissent.

He told The Independent: “This law is completely arbitrary. It allows a member of the public or a civilian officer to prosecute you because you’ve annoyed him.

“While corporations are allowed to drown us in their messages, I’m not allowed to do what I think of as interactive street theatre. I end up with a summons and a choice of accepting a fine or fighting a case and ending with a legal bill of £10,000. This is shutting down freedom of expression.”

The performer has spent the last four years touring locations around London, ranging from Google’s European headquarters in Belgravia to consumer hot spots such as Oxford Street, using his megaphone to comment on issues from tax avoidance to the use of overtly sexual advertising by retailers. Last month he turned up outside the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour, briefly addressing the crowd on his republican views.

But he came unstuck in November last year when he was spotted on two occasions outside Oxford Circus tube station, one of the capital’s busiest interchanges, by a Westminster street warden.

Oxford Circus is one of Shine’s main spots (Alamy) Oxford Circus is one of Shine’s main spots (Alamy)

In a statement obtained by The Independent, the warden said Mr Shine’s remonstrations, which had included asking passing shoppers what they considered to be the meaning of life, were “annoying local businesses” as well as an adjacent stall holder.

The warden wrote: “I photographed the male and asked him to stop using his loudspeaker. He ignored me and then started to use his loudspeaker to ridicule Westminster City Council.”

After refusing to provide his name and address and leaving the area on his bike, Mr Shine was approached for a second time a few days later by the same warden, this time backed by police.

Under what the street performer said was threat of arrest, he provided his personal details. In his statement, the warden said: “I cautioned Mr Shine and asked if he understood the caution. He replied, ‘I do not understand the caution.’ I then asked Mr Shine to place his loudspeaker into a clear bag which I sealed.”

The prohibition being used to prosecute Mr Shine – part of the council’s “Good Rule and Government” bylaws drawn up in 2001 – bans anyone on the streets of central London from making “any noise which is so loud or so continuous or repeated as to give reasonable cause for annoyance to other persons” if they have already been asked to stop.

The local authority insists the power is used proportionately and only enacted in cases of persistent noise. The Independent understands the bylaw has been used twice in the last year, once against a busker on Trafalgar Square.

But Mr Shine, with the help of a barrister, will argue that the bylaw should be struck down because it infringes the Human Rights Act by impeding his freedom of artistic and political expression as well as being “unreasonably vague”. He will also claim the bylaw is unlawful because it exceeds the provisions of existing statute such as the Public Order Act.

He said: “I was standing outside a tube station where every 10 minutes there is a loud announcement telling people to mind the steps or drink water. I don’t see the council taking London Underground to court. My purpose is to challenge people, not to upset them. If someone asks me to move on in a civil manner with a good reason then I will do so.”

Quite whether a judge will share his view that there has been a sense of humour failure among officials remains to be seen.

A Westminster City Council spokesman said: “This case isn’t about what you say in public – it’s about the volume at which you say it. The right to free speech isn’t a licence to walk the streets with a loudhailer disturbing the public. It’s our job as a local authority to protect the interests of the public and visitors to Westminster from undue noise and irritation.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?