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‘Huge Victory for Democracy’ as Rishi Sunak’s Protest Crackdown Found Unlawful by High Court

The Home Office unlawfully gave police the powers to intervene against protests where no serious disruption was taking place, the court found

Civil Liberties campaigners called the High Court’s findings a “huge victory for democracy”. Photo: Liberty

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Rishi Sunak’s anti-protest regulations have unlawfully put peaceful protesters at serious and unfair risk of prosecution, the High Court has ruled, in a major victory for civil liberties campaigners.

The High Court agreed with a challenge by the campaign group Liberty claiming that the Government had unlawfully extended the definition of protests which cause “serious disruption” in the legislation to cover protests which had merely caused normal levels of disruption.

The court agreed that this had led a “a substantially increased exposure to criminal sanctions on the part of protestors exercising their civil rights”.

They also found that the Home Office under the leadership of Suella Braverman had also failed to properly consult with those likely to be affected by their anti-protest legislation and regulations.

Campaigners welcomed the finding as a “huge victory for democracy”.

“This ruling is a huge victory for democracy, and sets down an important marker to show that the Government cannot step outside of the law to do whatever it wants”, Akiko Hart, Liberty’s director, said in a statement.

Legislation passed by Sunak’s Government in 2022 gave ministers the power to alter the definition of “serious disruption” without full parliamentary scrutiny, under so-called Henry VIII powers.

Sunak’s ‘Anti-Extremism’ Adviser Demands Protest Bans to Protect Defence and Energy Firms While Working as Lobbyist for Arms and Fossil Fuel Industry Groups

Lord Walney’s proposals would impose an effective ban on certain protest groups while handing police forces the power to outlaw regular Gaza protests

This decision led to ministers being able to hand power to the police to intervene to limit protests, even when no such serious disruption was occurring.

“We all have the right to speak out on the issues we believe in, and it’s vital that the Government respects that” Hart said.

“These dangerous powers were rejected by Parliament yet still sneaked through the back door with the clear intention of stopping protesters that the Government did not personally agree with, and were so vaguely worded that it meant that the police were given almost unlimited powers to shut down any other protest too.


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“This judgment sends a clear message that accountability matters, and that those in power must make decisions that respect our rights.” 

The finding came shortly before the Government’s ‘anti-extremism’ adviser unveiled a report recommending further draconian restrictions on the right to protest.

As this paper has previously reported, Lord Walney was commissioned to write the report, despite his own links to defence and business lobbyists, set to be affected by his recommendations. 

Among the measures recommended by Walney are effective bans on certain protest groups, plus new powers for the police to outlaw protests on the grounds of cost, or frequency.

The proposals could lead to several leading protest groups being effectively banned from operating, while outlawing the regular Palestinian solidarity marches that take place in London.

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