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- Right to protest
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Public order work, protest law and the right to protest
Bindmans is a leading firm of protest law solicitors and has, since its inception, been one of the first firms campaigners turn to when they protest. The protection of freedoms of expression and assembly are at the heart of Bindmans’ ethos in the same way that they are central to the European Convention of Human Rights.
We have a wealth of experience in representing public interest protesters who have deployed an array of tactics, on a spectrum of issues, often over a long period of time.
We have represented campaigners on issues as diverse as racial equality, animal rights, peace, the environment, anti-austerity and social justice.
For example, we represented anti-racism campaigners in the 1970s, trade unionists in industrial action in the 1980s, anti-roads protesters in the 1990s, anti-war activists in the 2000s and anti-cuts protesters in the 2010s.
We represent those involved in marches and assemblies (trade union and anti-war marches), vigils (outside the South African embassy during apartheid years and Parliament against the wars in the Middle East), camps (Greenham Common, Climate Camps), direct action (those engaged in damaging genetically modified crops, weapons to be used in genocide or war crimes), personal expression (nudity), picketing or equivalent protests at the work place (industrial action or at businesses associated with vivisection).
We represent campaigners engaged in one-off actions or long running campaigns, who protest in large groups or as individuals – from the late Brian Haw and his 10 year vigil outside Parliament to representing over 100 UK Uncut protesters arrested for demonstrating at Fortnum & Mason. We represent those who bear witness and plead guilty to those who put forward defences of justification and are often acquitted (for example Phil Pritchard and Toby Olditch, acquitted at Bristol Crown Court having sought to immobilise aircraft due to take off the next day to drop bombs in Iraq before the outbreak of the Gulf War).
We represent clients at all levels of the criminal justice system – from the police station to the House of Lords, Supreme Court, and to the European Court of Human Rights.
We have represented many people arrested for serious public order offences during civil disorder – such as the Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham in 1985 (including successfully challenging Winston Silcott’s conviction for the murder of PC Blakelock), poll tax demonstrations in 1990, the student and anti-cuts protests of 2010, the summer riots of 2011.
We work closely with others involved in these campaigns, protests and prosecutions – campaigners on the right to protest itself, human rights organisations, those providing legal, practical and political support as well as other defence lawyers and politicians.
We are able to assist on issues linked to protest. We provide advice in advance on the risks of committing criminal offences, arrests and prosecution. We can advise on the legal fall out from campaigns - defending civil injunction proceedings (Occupy, Democracy Village) and damages claims (the Department of Transport’s ill-fated multi-million pound claim against Twyford Down anti-roads protesters).
We can also provide private briefings to activists and public statements to the media on linked legal issues. We have lectured and written on the relevant law (e.g. ‘the Law of Public Order and Protest’, Oxford University Press, 2010 and Labour Lawyers House of Commons 2012 lecture on the right to protest and policing).
We advise and represent clients on pro-active litigation they might deploy. Occasionally we have begun, on behalf of clients, private prosecutions - against security guards who have assaulted protesters or those involved in animal cruelty at circuses.
We have identified and challenged the State’s misuse of its powers. This has included identifying the wrongful deployment of undercover police officers (leading to the quashing of 10's of convictions by the Court of Appeal, in the case of environmentalists infiltrated by undercover police officers).
And it has led us to work closely with colleagues in other departments who bring judicial review proceedings where the State has misapplied the law (the challenges brought by Laporte and Others of the decision to kettle those protesting at RAF Fairford against the impending Gulf War, and the mass unlawful G20 arrests at Earl Street) and civil cases against the police and in upholding the freedom of written or published expression, through our media, privacy and libel department.
Our public law team can also advise pre-emptively, or after the event, on challenges to unlawful arrests, police decisions to take DNA, fingerprints or photos, decisions to retain or disclose sensitive personal information to third parties on criminal records checks for employers, or visa applications.