Extinction Rebellion prosecutions dropped en masse after High Court rules London protest ban unlawful

More than 100 cases so far dropped as lawyers call for legal action against police 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 27 November 2019 15:57
Police cut activists out of locks as they begin to clear Extinction Rebellion protesters out of locations in central London

Prosecutions against Extinction Rebellion activists who were arrested under an unlawful protest ban are being dropped.

Solicitors representing demonstrators said many had received official confirmation that charges were being dropped from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on Wednesday.

Hodge Jones & Allen said its position was “futile” following a ruling by the High Court earlier this month.

Raj Chada, head of the legal firm’s protest team, said: “From the moment that the High Court ruled the Metropolitan Police’s ban was unlawful, this was an obvious consequence.

“The CPS have dithered and delayed before bowing to the inevitable and only caused more anxiety and expense to our clients. Anyone affected by this should contact us about a potential action against the police.”

Judges quashed a protest ban imposed by the Metropolitan Police during Extinction Rebellion’s October “uprising”.

They ruled the move unlawful earlier this month, finding that police had “no power to impose it” under the law.

As well as charges for violating the ban, solicitors said they had been informed of other prosecutions for breaching an earlier order imposed on 8 October being dropped.

The CPS said approximately 105 cases were being discontinued.

“We will be discontinuing a number of cases against Extinction Rebellion protesters who were arrested during the October protests,” a spokesperson said.

“These are cases in which the section 14 order was allegedly breached and some cases of highway obstruction. This decision has been taken as our legal test is not met.”

Of the 105 cases dropped, 73 people had been charged with breaching section 14 of the Public Order Act, 24 had been charged with the same offence plus highway obstruction, and eight were accused of stand-along highway obstruction.

The CPS said cases brought under different laws and unaffected highway obstruction cases would “continue through the criminal justice system in the normal way”.

In 10 days of planned protests that started on 7 October, activists targeted sites including government departments, the Bank of England and London City Airport.

Police initially used Section 14 of the Public Order Act to restrict demonstrations to Trafalgar Square, but following “continued breaches” of the order officers moved in to clear the area and changed the terms of the order.

Extinction Rebellion protesters lock themselves to caravan at Millbank Tower

It ordered “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion autumn uprising” to cease protests anywhere in London by 9pm on 14 October.

The ban was lifted on 18 October and was due to expire the following day.

Extinction Rebellion claimed more than 400 protesters were arrested while it was enforced, and threatened mass legal action.

The successful judicial review was launched by campaigners including Green Party politicians Baroness Jenny Jones and Caroline Lucas, Labour MP Clive Lewis and George Monbiot, who was arrested after the ban was enforced.

More than 1,800 people were arrested during the October protests, which saw a rapid response by police who had been caught out by Extinction Rebellion’s previous protests in April.

The “international rebellion” saw Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus blocked by fast-moving demonstrations.

Some police leaders, including Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, called for protest laws to be strengthened and have made representations to the Home Office.

The Metropolitan Police said it was “disappointed” by the High Court judgment but decided not to appeal it following legal advice.

“We have previously stated public order legislation needs updating,” a spokesperson said.

“This case is the first time the legislation has been tested in such unique circumstances. It has highlighted that policing demonstrations like these within the existing legal framework can be challenging.”

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