Mayor of London faces judicial review over Parliament Square fencing

24 November 2015

Liberty’s client will tomorrow launch a legal challenge against the Mayor of London’s decision to fence off Parliament Square Gardens halfway through a 10-day peaceful protest in October 2014.

The judicial review will be heard on Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 November at the High Court.

Protestors at the demonstration were told the square was fenced off for repair work and maintenance of the grass. However, the large metal fencing quickly expanded to the entire square, including paved areas.

There was also a distinct lack of evidence of maintenance or repair work happening on the gardens. Instead there was a constant presence of police officers and dogs, with little regard for the square’s flora.

Occupy Democracy successfully discouraged littering at the demonstration and went to great lengths to keep the area clean and tidy. They also declared the protest an alcohol-free zone. The attendance of demonstrators was never large enough to dominate the square. They were not seeking to hold an indefinite encampment, but a limited 10-day demonstration.

Rosie Brighouse, Liberty Legal Officer, said:

“The right to protest is a vital part of any democracy, allowing ordinary people to peacefully hold the powerful to account.

“For the Mayor of London to so brazenly attempt to end that proud tradition by preventing people from protesting where those in government might actually see them is deeply concerning. Parliament Square is not his private back garden. It is only right that a court will now consider the legality of his decision.”

George Barda, Occupy Democracy campaigner and Liberty’s client, said:

“We're faced with the combination of increasingly illiberal government policies and global challenges on an unprecedented scale. The importance of principled protest movements that help restore sanity to our national conversation has therefore never been greater.

“Consequently the role of the courts in protecting such movements is vital to our increasingly undermined democracy.”

The right to peaceful protest is enshrined in law in Article 11 of the Human Rights Act. There is a positive obligation on the State to take reasonable steps to facilitate this right, and to protect participants in peaceful demonstrations from disruption by others.

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

Notes

  1. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 gave the Mayor and the police significant powers to prevent the use of sleeping equipment, amplification and other protest equipment in the area surrounding Parliament. Liberty raised concerns regarding these laws when they were passed. The Mayor went on to go even further by fencing off the area entirely.
  2. Liberty represents Mr Barda as his solicitor in this case.