There is no set or standard way to organise a protest. It can be up to you to decide what you want to do. We have set out 5 steps which may assist you:
1. Contacting the police
If you think that the police may be interested in your protest, you will need to think about the advantages and disadvantages of contacting them. There is a legal obligation to contact them when organizing a march or procession – but there is no such legal obligation when organising a stationary protest or vigil.(ie an assembly)
By contacting the police, it is possible that there will be a greater level of co-operation but equally the police may try to impose conditions on the protest (which they can do, under certain circumstances for both processions and assemblies). You should be aware that any communications with the police can be used later in court to show that a particular person was an organizer of an illegal demonstration.
2. Challenging conditions
If the police do impose conditions, then it may be possible to challenge them by judicially reviewing their decision. You would need to contact us as soon as possible so that we could assist.
Where protestors do not keep to the conditions themselves, then the police may decide to make arrests for breaching those conditions. – see common offences – breach of s12/14. However, if the conditions are found, during the criminal trial, to be unlawful, then you will be acquitted and you may be entitled to damages. This has happened on a number of our cases such as protest against the DSEI arms fair and against Colnbrook Detention Centre.
3. Stewards and legal observers
It might be helpful to have stewards and legal observers at protests to avoid conflict and ensure that there is a clear note about what happened on the day. Organisations such as GBC Legal often assist in providing legal observers.
Many protests are designed to attract publicity and thought should be given to how to achieve this. As above, you should be aware that any publicity material could be relied upon in court, should the police allege that the protest itself breached conditions.
5. Legal cover and Briefing
We arrange for our lawyers to be on standby during a protest. We provide representation of anyone arrested and aim to ensure that this is done by people employed by HJA who have had specialist training on protest/public order issues.
Our demonstration participation specialists are part of our London based protest law team. We have almost four decades of experience helping clients from around the UK with a wide variety of legal matters. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0808 250 6017 today.