Freedom of Assembly and Association in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • R (Laporte) v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary
    • House of Lords
    • 13 Dic 2006

    The approach of the English common law to freedom of expression and assembly was hesitant and negative, permitting that which was not prohibited.

    Article 10 confers a right to freedom of expression and article 11 to freedom of peaceful assembly. Neither right is absolute. The exercise of these rights may be restricted if the restriction is prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and directed to any one of a number of specified ends.

    But, as O'Kelly v Harvey shows, where it is necessary in order to prevent a breach of the peace, at common law police officers can take action (in that case dispersing a meeting) which affects people who are not themselves going to be actively involved in the breach.

    But the European Court has at all times also stressed the importance of the rights of freedom of assembly and expression and that states have positive obligations to take steps to facilitate their exercise (cf paragraph 136 above). So, wherever possible, the focus of preventive action should, on any view, be on those about to act disruptively, not on innocent third parties.

  • City of London v Samede and Others
    • Court of Appeal
    • 22 Feb 2012

    In our view, those factors include (but are not limited to) the extent to which the continuation of the protest would breach domestic law, the importance of the precise location to the protesters, the duration of the protest, the degree to which the protesters occupy the land, and the extent of the actual interference the protest causes to the rights of others, including the property rights of the owners of the land, and the rights of any members of the public.

    Having said that, we accept that it can be appropriate to take into account the general character of the views whose expression the Convention is being invoked to protect. For instance, political and economic views are at the top end of the scale, and pornography and vapid tittle-tattle is towards the bottom. In this case, the Judge accepted that the topics of concern to the Occupy Movement were 'of very great political importance'— [2012] EWHC 34 (QB), para 155.

  • Blum v DPP
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 20 Dic 2006

    The submission in simple terms is that the State, in its various public authority guises (police, CPS, courts) must be able to justify the necessity to act on the individual facts of each case. Thus, it is submitted that the questions that arise in each case are – was the arrest, detention, prosecution and conviction of the appellant strictly necessary? Was each necessary and proportionate for the achievement of legitimate aims, or was it heavy-handed and unnecessary?

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