Campaigners given go-ahead to legally challenge Mayor of London over Parliament Square fencing

06 March 2015

Liberty’s client has been granted permission to take the Mayor of London to court over his decision to fence off Parliament Square – preventing peaceful protests by Occupy Democracy from going ahead.

The High Court has given the green light for a judicial review against the Mayor, centring on his decision to erect large metal fences in Parliament Square Gardens halfway through a 10-day protest in October 2014.

Protestors were told that the enclosure – which forced them into a narrow space away from the Houses of Parliament – was required for repair work and maintenance of the grass. However the fencing quickly expanded to the entire Square, including paved areas. There was a distinct lack of evidence of maintenance or repair work taking place 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. Demonstrator numbers were never large enough to dominate the Square or exclude anyone else from using it.

Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said:

“The UK has a long, proud history of holding the powerful to account, and the right to protest peacefully is enshrined in law in our Human Rights Act. Unfortunately that can be something of an inconvenience for those in power.

“The Mayor’s flagrant disregard for one of our most fundamental freedoms, on the very doorstep of the palace of power, cannot be allowed to go unchecked – so we’re delighted the courts have seen fit to review his actions.”

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

"We're very pleased to see the first step has been taken towards a potentially just outcome. The Court’s decision reflects the importance of the threat to democracy and human rights constituted by Boris Johnson's chilling and repressive actions towards peaceful pro-democracy campaigners.”

Occupy Democracy attempted to hold further demonstrations of even shorter length in November and December, but on both occasions the Mayor constructed the fencing again, causing them significant difficulties.

They will continue come together to protest each month in the run-up to the General Election.  The Mayor has refused to agree that the fencing will not be reconstructed to prevent future protests.

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

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  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 is now going even further by fencing off the area entirely.
  2. A number of the protestors are currently facing criminal charges relating to the policing of the demonstrations.