21 people protested peacefully on the verge of the A344, next to the perimeter fence at Stonehenge. Some carried banners saying ‘Never Again,’ ‘Stonehenge Campaign 10 years of Criminal Injustice’ and ‘Free Stonehenge.’ The officer in charge concluded that they constituted a ‘trespassory assembly’ and told them so. When asked to move off, many did, but some, including the Appellants were determined to remain and put their rights to the test. They were later convicted.
Held: The appeal was allowed. A peaceful assembly on the highway, which did not unreasonably interfere with or obstruct the highway, was not a trespassory assembly. Old rules limiting lawful uses of the highway to passing and repassing, no longer apply and modern ranges of uses were wider. The existence of a public right of way entitled the public not merely to pass and repass, but may include the right of public assembly so long as such assembly does not unreasonably obstruct the highway.
(Lord Irvine; minority) The public might use and enjoy the highway for any reasonable purpose provided that the activity did not constitute a nuisance or obstruct the highway. Section 14A ‘brings into the arena of the criminal law the rights, if any, which the public have as against the occupier of the land in private law. It does so by enabling the police to take action against those taking part in an assembly if the occupier of the land would be entitled to treat the assembly as trespassing on his land. But the police may exercise their powers independently of the occupier, whose knowledge of or consent to the action which they are taking is not required.’ Public rights over land acquired by user or by dedication are limited as against the owner. They are granted or acquired for a particular purpose only, and they are not to be confused with the use of the land for other purposes.
The Lord Chancellor Lord Slynn of Hadley Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Clyde Lord Hutton
Times 05-Mar-1999, Gazette 17-Mar-1999, Gazette 31-Mar-1999,  2 AC 240,  UKHL 5,  2 WLR 625,  2 All ER 257, (1999) 6 BHRC 513, (1999) 3 CHRLD 4
England and Wales
Cited – Ex parte Lewis (The Trafalgar Square Case) QBD 2-Jul-1888
L sought to assert a right to hold public meetings in Trafalgar Square.
Held: (obiter) There was no public right to occupy Trafalgar Square for the purpose of holding public meetings. The Commissioners of Works and Public Buildings (in whom . .
Applied – Harrison v Duke of Rutland CA 8-Dec-1893
H used a public highway crossing the defendant’s land, to disrupt grouse-shooting upon the defendant’s land. He complained after he had been forcibly restrained by the defendant’s servants from doing so. The defendant justified his actions saying . .
Cited – Hickman v Maisey CA 16-Mar-1900
A racing tout used the public highway which crossed the plaintiff’s property to watch racehorses being trained on the plaintiff’s land. On a particular occasion he walked backwards and forwards on a portion of the highway 15 yards long for a period . .
Appeal from – Jones and Lloyd v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 23-Jan-1997
The appellants had been peacefully protesting at Stonehenge. They were among others who refused to leave when ordered to do so under an order made by the police officer in charge declaring it to be a trespassory assembly under the 1986 Act. They . .
Cited – Nagy v Weston QBD 1965
The defendant was prosecuted after selling hot dogs from a van parked on a busy street in Oxford. The court was asked when such would become an illegal obstruction.
Held: Such a use ‘could not . . be said to be incidental to the right to pass . .
Cited – Hirst and Agu v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire QBD 1987
The defendants were arrested after distributing leaflets outside a furriers, and appealed against convictions for obstructing the highway.
Held: The appeals succeeded. In deciding whether there was a lawful excuse for a technical obstruction . .
Cited – Regina v Pratt 1855
‘I take it to be clear law that, if a man use the land over which there is a right of way for any purpose, lawful or unlawful, other than that of passing and repassing, he is a trespasser.’ . .
Cited – Regina v Cunningham Graham and Burns 1888
The court rejected a suggestion that there was a right of public meeting in Trafalgar Square or any other thoroughfare. ‘So far as I know the law of England, the use of public thoroughfares is for people to pass and repass along them. That is the . .
Cited – Attorney-General v Antrobus ChD 1905
The owner of Stonehenge had enclosed the monument by fencing for its protection. The Attorney-General wished to remove the fencing in order to keep the place open so that the public could visit it.
Held: The court rejected a suggestion that . .
Cited – Randall v Tarrant CA 1955
The defendant had crashed into the plaintiff’s parked vehicle as he tried to pass. The defendant denied negligece.
Held: A driver on a highway who sees a stationary vehicle has to take all possible care to avoid a collision. If there is . .
Cited – In re Ellenborough Park CA 15-Nov-1955
Qualifying Characteristics ofr Easement
Parties claimed a public right to wander through the grounds of the park.
Held: No such right could have been granted or was properly claimed. Lord Evershed MR said: ‘There is no doubt, in our judgment, but that Attorney-General v. Antrobus . .
Cited – Lowdens v Keaveney 1903
There had been a prosecution for wilfully preventing and interrupting the free passage of persons in a public street. There had been a procession with a band playing.
Held: It was a question of fact and degree whether such a use of the street . .
Cited – Attorney-General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (No 2) (‘Spycatcher’) HL 13-Oct-1988
Loss of Confidentiality Protection – public domain
A retired secret service employee sought to publish his memoirs from Australia. The British government sought to restrain publication there, and the defendants sought to report those proceedings, which would involve publication of the allegations . .
Cited – Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others HL 18-Feb-1993
Local Council may not Sue in Defamation
Local Authorities must be open to criticism as political and administrative bodies, and so cannot be allowed to sue in defamation. Such a right would operate as ‘a chill factor’ on free speech. Freedom of speech was the underlying value which . .
Cited – Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others CA 19-Apr-1992
In two issues of ‘The Sunday Times’ newspaper on 17 and 24 September 1989 there appeared articles concerning share deals involving the superannuation fund of the Derbyshire County Council. The articles in the issue of 17 September were headed . .
Cited – Duke of Athol v Torrie 1849
Cited – Mann v Brodie HL 1885
The court analysed the differences between Scottish and English land law with regard to rights acquired by prescription. Although in both countries a right of public way may be acquired by prescription, it was in England never practically necessary . .
Cited – MacPherson v Scottish Rights of Way and Recreation Society Ltd 1887
Cited – Llandudno Urban District Council v Woods 1899
A clergyman set up a pulpit and was holding services and delivering addresses on the seashore.
Held: An injunction was refused. The court discouraged actions for trespass on public highways where the inteference was trivial. In this case, . .
Cited – Fielden v Cox 1906
The defendants had set up appliances on the highway for the purpose of catching moths.
Held: The court discouraged actions for minimal obstructions. . .
Cited – McAra v Magistrates of Edinburgh 1913
The pursuer challenged the rights of the Magistrates to issue a proclamation ordering that ‘persons shall not assemble or congregate or hold meetings’ in certain streets of the city unless they had been licensed to do so.
Held: They indeed had . .
Cited – Hubbard v Pitt CA 1976
Protesters handed out leaflets and carried posters outside the plaintiff’s estate agency. He claimed in trespass over the public footpath outside his premises. The defendants appealed the grant of an interlocutory injunction to prevent their . .
Cited – Wills Trustees v Cairngorm Canoeing and Sailing School HL 1976
The public right of navigation (PRN) is a right to public use of the river. The river may be used by the public for purposes of exercise and recreation as well as transport and commerce. At common law PRN cannot be lost by lack of use over time. ‘A . .
Cited – Liddle v Yorkshire (North Riding) County Council 1934
The court described the right of the public to use the highway: ‘. . it is well established that a highway must not be used in quite a different manner from passage along it and the pretext of walking up and down along it will not legitimise such a . .
Cited – Duncan v Jones KBD 1936
The appellant was about to make a public address in a situation in which the year before a disturbance had been incited by her speaking. A policeman believed reasonably that a breach of the peace would occur if the meeting was held, and ordered the . .
Cited – C (A Minor) v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 17-Mar-1995
The House considered whether the long established rule of the criminal law presuming that a child did not have a guilty mind should be set aside.
Held: Doli incapax, the presumption of a child’s lack of mens rea, is still effective and good . .
Cited – Oxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council, Catherine Mary Robinson ChD 22-Jan-2004
Land had been registered in part as a common. The council appealed.
Held: The rights pre-existing the Act had not been lost. The presumption against retrospectively disapplying vested rights applied, and the application had properly been made. . .
Cited – Herrick and Another v Kidner and Another Admn 17-Feb-2010
Psychological Obstruction to Public Footpath
A public footpath crossed the appellants’ land. They constructed a gateway across it which they now accepted had been a significant obstruction of the right of way. The local authority served a notice requiring its removal, including the stone . .
Cited – Smith, Regina (on The Application of) v Land Registry (Peterborough Office) and Another CA 10-Mar-2010
The appellant had lived in a caravan on the verge of a byway and had been here for more than twelve years. He appealed against rejection of his request for possessory title. He said that there was no support in law for the maxim that adverse . .
Cited – N. Parsooramen and Co Ltd v Nahaboo and Others PC 29-Jun-2010
(Mauritius) . .
Cited – Mowan v London Borough of Wandsworth and Another CA 21-Dec-2000
The claimant tenant sought damages from the landlord and neighbour and fellow tenant for nuisance caused by the neighbour’s aberrant behaviour.
Sir Christopher Staughton said: ‘there is a strong trend in the cases in favour of the landlord who . .
Cited – Westminster City Council v Haw QBD 4-Oct-2002
The court was asked as to the interaction between the right and the duty of a local authority to remove obstructions from its highways, on the one hand, and the right of the individual citizen to use those highways to exercise his or her right to . .
Cited – Oxfordshire County Council v Oxford City Council and Another CA 24-Feb-2004
Application was made to register the ‘trap grounds’ as a village green.
Held: Carnwath LJ: ‘The 1965 Act created no new legal status, and no new rights or liabilities other than those resulting from the proper interpretation of section 10. . .
Cited – Scott v Mid-South Essex Justices and Keskin Admn 25-Mar-2004
The private prosecutor appealed against the dismissal by the magistrates of his allegation that the defendant had unlawfully obstructed the highway. In essence the question was whether Mr Keskin should have been found to have a lawful excuse. He . .
Cited – Hamilton v Dumfries and Galloway Council SCS 24-Feb-2009
The petitioner sought a declarator that an area of land on the edge of the village of Collin was not a ‘road’ capable of being added by the respondents, Dumfries and Galloway Council, to their list of public roads under section 16 of the 1984 Act. . .
Cited – City of London v Samede and Others QBD 18-Jan-2012
The claimant sought an order for possession of land outside St Paul’s cathedral occupied by the protestor defendants, consisting of ‘a large number of tents, between 150 and 200 at the time of the hearing, many of them used by protestors, either . .
Cited – Kind v Northumberland County Council Admn 14-Mar-2012
The appellant landowner had a public bridleway over his land. It passed over an old cattle grid. He had constructed a gate to the side of the track. It was not part of the public highway. He now appealed from a refusal of an order for the Council to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 11 May 2022; Ref: scu.158988