Police misunderstanding the scope of public order powers in Northern Ireland

Date01 September 2018
Published date01 September 2018
AuthorNeil Parpworth
Subject MatterArticles
Police misunderstanding
the scope of public order
powers in Northern
Ireland: Differences of
judicial opinion
Neil Parpworth
Leicester De Montfort Law School, Leicester, UK
It is a common feature of public order legislation throughout the UK that those who
organise public processions must give the police advance notification that they are to be
held, and that it is a criminal offence to fail to do so. Whilst the European Court of
Human Rights has accepted that such a requirement is not necessarily incompatible with
the Article 11 freedom to peacefully assemble, recent litigation concerning the policing
of the ‘flag protests’ in Belfast suggests that the officers in charge were mistaken as to the
scope of their powers under the relevant legislation, the Public Processions (Northern
Ireland) Act 1998, and that they failed to appreciate that the protection afforded to
protestors by Article 11 has important limits.
Northern Ireland, publ ic processions, notice r equirement, Article 11 of the ECHR,
police powers and duties
Public processions represent a physical manifestation of two important and connected or
symbiotic freedoms: freedom of expression; and freedom of assembly (Card, 2000;
Mead, 2010). Prior to the Human Rights Act 1998, English law regarded such freedoms
as the ability to do that which was not unlawful (Home Office 1980). Now, however, as a
consequence of the Act, protestors and demonstrators are able to assert, and the police
Corresponding author:
Neil Parpworth, Leicester De Montfort Law School, Leicester LE1 5XZ, UK.
Email: njp@dmu.ac.uk
The Police Journal:
Theory, Practice and Principles
2018, Vol. 91(3) 249–263
ªThe Author(s) 2017
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0032258X17716580

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