Lawyers from HJA raise concerns that COVID regulations are being used to clamp down on peaceful protest
The law firm also believes the COVID regulations can be challenged, as they are not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights
Top criminal lawyers from the London-based social justice firm Hodge Jones and Allen have written to the Metropolitan Police on behalf of the protest groups LDN BLM, NETPOL, UK Student Climate Network, and Extinction Rebellion to express concern over the policing of demonstrations under COVID-19 restrictions.
Following recent Black Lives Matter protests in London, the firm has already acted for several individuals who were arrested while peacefully protesting. The firm highlights its concerns to the Metropolitan Police that Regulation 7 of the COVID-19 rules (lawful participation in an outdoor public gathering of up to six people) fails to provide the adequate protection to the right to free speech and the right to protest, as set out under Article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Further, the police’s use of this Regulation (or any preceding Regulation), in either issuing Fixed Penalty Notices or arresting those who are attending demonstrations itself constitutes a breach of individuals’ rights under the above Convention Rights. This has the effect of curtailing the rights to protest in London and beyond.
There are likely to be a number of further Black Lives Matter protests taking place in London over the course of the next few days. Other protests may also be scheduled. LDN BLM, NETPOL, UK Student Climate Network, and Extinction Rebellion are concerned that flawed Regulations that breach Convention rights may be used as enforcement mechanisms in the forthcoming protests. Whilst this is inappropriate in all protest, it is of particular concern, in BLM, where one of the campaign issues itself relates to disproportionate policing.
Hodge Jones and Allen is seeking reassurance from the Metropolitan Police that an alleged breach of this Regulation, by attendance at a demonstration, will not, in of itself, lead to either the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices or arrests.
Mike Schwarz, Head of Protest at HJA said:
“These regulations appear to have been so rushed that they fail even to acknowledge human rights considerations. This begs the question whether civil rights have here been sacrificed to political expediency and sloppy government.”
Raj Chada, Head of the Crime Department at HJA said:
“It defies belief that even when protestors are peaceful and socially distanced, that the police have a power to arrest or issue a Fixed Penalty Notice. We urge the police not to use these regulations to interfere with the right to protest, particularly at a time where many feel so strongly about the Black Lives Matter movement and disproportionate policing”
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