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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front of House Team Member

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This strategic outsourcing and energy se...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen