Tabernacle -v- Secretary of State for Defence; CA 5-Feb-2009

The claimant sought judicial review to test the validity of the bye-laws which prohibited them from camping on public land to support their demonstration.
Held: The bye-laws violated the claimant’s right to freedom of assembly and of expression. The respondent’s objections to the camp were insubstantial and could not justify the interference. The camp had existed for 23 years. Demonstrations were in their nature unruly and inconvenient.
Laws LJ said: “As I have said it is plain in this case that the Secretary of State has not sought to impose anything approaching a blanket ban on AWPC’s rights of protest. They may protest as much as they like: all they are stopped from doing is camping in the Controlled Areas. In that sense it may be said that paragraph 7(2)(f) of the 2007 Byelaws only goes to the manner and form of the exercise of the appellant’s rights under ECHR Article 10. It is not on its face directed towards the suppression of free speech, on the part of the AWPC or anyone else. It merely prohibits camping, which happens to be the mode or setting chosen by the AWPC for its protest.
But this ‘manner and form’ may constitute the actual nature and quality of the protest; it may have acquired a symbolic force inseparable from the protestors’ message; it may be the very witness of their beliefs.” and “Rights worth having are unruly things. Demonstrations and protests are liable to be a nuisance. They are liable to be inconvenient and tiresome, or at least perceived as such by others who are out of sympathy with them. Sometimes they are wrong-headed and misconceived. Sometimes they betray a kind of arrogance: an arrogance which assumes that spreading the word is always more important than the mess which, often literally, the exercise leaves behind. In that case, firm but balanced regulation may well be justified.”

Court: CA
Date: 05-Feb-2009
Judges: Laws LJ, Wall LJ, Stanley Burnton LJ
Statutes: Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston Byelaws 2007, European Convention on Human Rights 10 11
Links: Bailii, Times, WLRD,
References: [2009] EWCA Civ 23, [2009] WLR (D) 35
Cases Cited:
Cited By:

Leave a Comment

Filed under Armed Forces, Crime, Human Rights

Leave a Reply