Austin and Saxby v Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis: QBD 23 Mar 2005

Towards the end of a substantial May Day demonstration on the streets of London, police surrounded about 3,000 people in Oxford Circus and did not allow them to leave for seven hours. The claimant who was present, but not involved in any of the organisation sought damages.
Held: Police have powers to act out of necessity to defend property. The throwing of a cordon around the crowd was not arresting the individuals in the crowd. The detention was not for a brief time, and the claimant’s human rights were engaged, but it was justifiable under Article 5.1. The police intended to arrest those who had committed offences and to bring them before the courts. And to arrest others they reasonably suspected would commit further offences. Seven hours was well within the scale of ‘promptly’ referred to in the Article. It was reasonable to have treated all those in Oxford Circus as demonstrators until they came forward with their personal circumstances. Less intrusive action would not have been appropriate or effective.
Tugendhat J said: ‘The court must allow for the fact that it may be very difficult for the police to identify the target or predict the scale of violent disorder.
I conclude that the court should accord a high degree of respect for the police officers’ appreciation of the risks of what the members of the crowd might have done if not contained. At the same time the court should subject to a very close scrutiny the practical effect which derogating measures have on individual human rights, the importance of the rights affected, and the robustness of any safeguards intended to minimise the impact of derogating members on individual human rights.’


Tugendhat J


Times 14-Apr-2005, [2005] EWHC 480


Public Order Act 1986 12 814, European Convention on Human Rights 5.1


CitedRigby and another v Chief Constable of Northamptonshire 1985
The police were found liable to pay damages for negligence having fired a gas canister into the plaintiffs’ gunsmith’s hop premises in order to flush out a dangerous psychopath. There had been a real and substantial fire risk in firing the canister . .
CitedGuenat v Switzerland ECHR 10-Apr-1995
Article 5 did not apply to a claim of false imprisonment by the police where they had acted through necessity. . .
CitedLaporte, Regina (on the Application of) v Gloucestershire Constabulary and others CA 8-Dec-2004
The claimant had been in a bus taking her and others to an intended demonstration. The police feared breaches of the peace, and stopped the bus, and ordered the driver to return to London, and escorted it to ensure it did not stop.
Held: The . .
CitedAlbert v Lavin HL 3-Dec-1981
An off duty and out of uniform police officer attempted to restrain the defendant jumping ahead of a bus queue. The defendant struggled, and continued to do so even after being told that of the officer’s status. He said he had not believed that he . .
CitedL v United Kingdom ECHR 5-Oct-2004
The claimant had suffered mental illness and threatened to hurt himself. He was taken into hospital as a voluntary patient, but in effect detained compulsorily. He lacked capacity to consent to medical treatment.
Held: The holding of a patient . .
CitedGillan and Quinton, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Another CA 29-Jul-2004
The appellants had challenged the lawfulness of being stopped and searched by police. The officers relied on an authorisation made under the 2000 Act. They had been on their way to attending an arms fair, intending to demonstrate.
Held: The . .
CitedCastorina v Chief Constable of Surrey CA 10-Jun-1988
Whether an officer had reasonable cause to arrest somebody without a warrant depended upon an objective assessment of the information available to him, and not upon his subjective beliefs. The court had three questions to ask (per Woolf LJ): ‘(a) . .

Cited by:

CitedSingh and others v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police QBD 4-Nov-2005
A play was presented which was seen by many Sikhs as offensive. Protesters were eventually ordered to disperse under s30 of the 2003 Act. The defendants appealed their convictions for having breached that order, saying that it interfered with their . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Human Rights, Torts – Other

Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.225889