Freedom of protest and assembly - European Convention on Human Rights
The European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated, to a large extent, into UK law as a result of the Human Rights Act 1998. One of the most important protections, was that as governed by Article 10 and 11.
Article 10 is the “freedom of expression”. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by a public authority and ‘regardless of frontiers’. The right is subject to some conditions, restrictions and penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of crime or disorder and other matters.
Article 11 is the “freedom of association and assembly”. This right includes the freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others. Again, the right is subject to some conditions, restrictions and penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of crime or disorder and other matters. This right can be restricted by the armed forces or the police.
Importantly, public authorities such as the police have a positive obligation to protect and facilitate the exercise of these rights.
The rights referred to above does not prohibit the police from managing a protest and in some circumstances, using some force to manage what can often be a volatile situation. However, such force must be reasonable as governed by s.3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 and s.117 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
Unfortunately, recent years have seen the unlawful killing of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London.
In addition, the police sometimes go beyond their powers resulting in the arrest of an individual who was protesting in accordance with the law. If you believe you have been arrested, assaulted and/or treated in a way that contravenes your rights as referred to above call our specialist team on 0175 321 5096.