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Prosecution asked to review Extinction Rebellion convictions for obstruction of the public highway

View profile for Correna Platt
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Landmark legal ruling changes the way professional bodies deal with their members

In September 2020, Extinction Rebellion protested in central London with the aim of highlighting the issue of climate change. It was reported that they blocked roads, glued themselves to the floor and staged sit-ins. In total the police arrested more than 600 people and a number of these were convicted of a criminal offence. The question now is how safe are those convictions.

On the 25th June 2021 the Supreme Court in the case of DPP v. Ziegler and others (a case concerning protest against the arms trade) the court handed down judgement on the following question:

(1)  What is the test to be applied by an appellate court to an assessment of the decision of the trial court in respect of a statutory defence of “lawful excuse” when convention rights are engaged in a criminal matter?

(2) Is deliberate physically obstructive conduct by protesters capable of constituting a lawful excuse for the purposes of section 137 of the 1980 Act, where the impact of the deliberate obstruction on other highway users is more than de minimis, and prevents them, or is capable of preventing them, from passing along the highway?

The court found that as a general principle, any demonstration in a public place inevitably causes a certain level of disruption to ordinary life, including disruption of traffic, and that it is important for the public authorities to show a certain degree of tolerance towards peaceful gatherings if the freedom of assembly guaranteed by article 11 of the convention is not to be deprived of all substance.

Articles 10 & 11 of the Human Rights Act protect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. An individual does not lose this protection by taking part in a demonstration which can cause an obstruction to the public highway.

The prosecution have been urged to review whether convictions which have been obtained are still safe.

At Stephensons, we have a team who specialise in overturning convictions and reducing sentences having had a number of successful cases at the Court of Appeal. The team is headed by Correna Platt who is a senior Partner in the firm and has been qualified as a solicitor for over 25 years. If you have been convicted of an offence and wish to appeal your conviction or sentence, do not hesitate to contact the team on 0161 696 6188 or complete our online enquiry form.