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Tuesday June 18, 2024

Court rules UK govt anti-protest powers unlawful

Civil liberties group Liberty brought a legal challenge to the amendments, which campaigners said gave police “almost unlimited” powers to restrict protests

By AFP
May 22, 2024
Policemen carrying a man in this undated photo.— AFP/file
Policemen carrying a man in this undated photo.— AFP/file

LONDON: The UK government acted unlawfully by changing legislation to give police tougher powers to clamp down on street protests, judges ruled on Tuesday.

Civil liberties group Liberty brought a legal challenge to the amendments, which campaigners said gave police “almost unlimited” powers to restrict protests.

The changes were pushed through when outspoken right-winger Suella Braverman was home secretary. She had repeatedly promised to crack down on protesters using so-called “guerilla tactics”.

That followed action, particularly by environmental groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, in which demonstrators glued or attached themselves to roads and buildings.

Liberty´s challenge centred on powers conferred by parliament to the home secretary to amend existing laws about when police could intervene during protests to prevent “serious” wider disruption.

Two judges ruled that lawmakers had not intended to lower the threshold for police action against protesters. But the amendments allowed police to target anything considered a “more than minor” disturbance. The government only consulted law enforcement agencies before enacting the changes, the High Court ruling added.