On 22 January, the Court of Appeal ruled against the test cases of "precrime" royal wedding arrestees.
The Metropolitan Police pre-emptively arrested dozens of people shortly before and on the day of the Royal Wedding in 2011, including a people from a "zombie" flash-mob in Soho Square, a group of 10 republican protesters at Charing Cross Station, and one man who was "a known anarchist" walking in central London. Many were detained for hours, and all were released without charge.
Some of the arrestees pursued a Judicial Review against the Metropolitan Police in 2012, arguing that their arrests were evidence of a policy of pre-emptive political policing designed to keep dissenters – both real and perceived – off the streets.
The High Court initially found in the police’s favour in July 2012, but the Court of Appeal found in that the arrestees had grounds for appeal on the basis that there was doubt surrounding whether the arresting offices ever intended to bring the arrestees before a judge to charge them with any offence.
Under Article 5(1) (c) of the European Convention of Human Rights, for an arrest to be lawful there must be an intention to bring them before a competent legal authority. The plaintiffs argue that there was no intention to bring any of the arrestees before a court, and as such the arrest was unlawful – and simply used as a way to keep dissenting voices out of sight during the Royal Wedding.
A Royal Wedding arrestee involved in the ongoing case said: “There is a clear trajectory running through our arrests to policing actions around the Olympics to recent arrests of anti-fascists which shows that the Metropolitan Police are using mass arrests as a political tactic to undermine protest and dissent. Some very basic democratic and civil liberties are at stake.”
Another arrestee said “This appeal was not the court case we wanted as we wanted to challenge the entire tactic of pre-emptive arrest, but we believe our appeal is an important challenge to the police’s ‘right’ to act in this way.”
The ongoing court proceedings take place in the context of the increasing use of mass arrests and other disproportionate policing tactics against protesters. There have been mass arrests of over 100 people at anti-fascist protests and on ‘Critical Mass‘ bike rides in recent years. On the same day that the Court of Appeal judgement was handed down it was also announced that police are asking for water cannons to use during anti-austerity protests.
Bhatt Murphy solicitors, who are representing the royal wedding arrestees commented “the plaintiffs are attempting to do something of considerable legal importance that would have far reaching implications for policing in this country and would make a significant contribution to the development of the rights of protestors.”
The Court of Appeal case was made up of four test cases of individual arrestees. On Wednesday 22 January 2014 the Lord Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Leveson and Lord Justice Aikens dismissed the appeals and decided the court was not bound to follow the legal principles the decision of Ostendorf v Germany which was recently heard at the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights.
The plaintiffs are very disappointed with the result and will certainly be looking into appealing the decision and taking it to the Supreme Court.