Community Organiser, Ken Hinds, has been successful in his challenge to the Metropolitan Police’s attempts to prevent him from organising the Million People March in London on Sunday 30 August. The Police responded to letters sent on Mr Hind’s behalf by the head of our Civil Liberties Department, Lochlinn Parker, confirming that he was no longer being investigated for organising the protest. Leslie Thomas QC of Garden Court Chambers and Michael Etienne of No5 Barristers Chambers were also instructed.
Under the latest version of the Coronavirus Regulations, a ‘political body’ (as well as charitable, benevolent, or philanthropic organisations) can organise gatherings of over 30 people in a public place, as long as they comply with public health requirements. After almost a month of discussion with the Met Police about the demonstration, Mr Hinds was informed by them that they believed the protest was not being organised by a ‘political body’ and therefore was unlawful under the regulations. They also informed him that he may be prosecuted if he continued to organise the protest, and may already have committed an offence. Further new regulations coming into force on 28 August would have meant that Mr Hinds could have been fined up to £10,000 for organising the protest.
In correspondence with the Met Police it transpired that they had not previously considered the requirements of the regulations, despite at least half a dozen protests in the meantime, and yet they saw fit to threaten Mr Hinds with criminal proceedings. The police have now accepted that the protest was being organised by a political body and therefore confirmed that they no longer had any intention to investigate Mr Hinds for organising the protest and encouraging people to attend.
The protest is going ahead. Coverage of the case can be found here and here.
Lochlinn Parker said:
"Mr Hinds is obviously pleased that the protest can now go ahead without the threat of prosecution, but protestors should not have to have to instruct lawyers to help them exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. This case has clarified that protests called by campaign organisations are not unlawful gatherings, as long the group has completed an adequate assessment of the public health risks of the protest. People need to be aware of the Coronavirus Regulations and be prepared to stand up for their Article 10 and 11 Rights to protest even in these extraordinary times."
If you are a protestor or protest organiser who has been affected by police implementation of the Coronavirus Regulations, please do get in touch. Our Civil Liberties lawyers are more than happy to talk through your options.