Moss v McLachlan: QBD 1985

Four striking miners were travelling in a convoy of motor vehicles and were stopped by a police cordon at a junction within several miles of four collieries. The inspector in charge believed with reason that a breach of the peace would be committed if they continued to the pits and asked them to turn back. He told them that if they continued they would be obstructing an officer in the execution of his duty and therefore liable to arrest. Many refused to turn back however and, after blocking the road with their vehicles, a group comprising the four striking miners attempted to push their way through the police cordon. They were arrested on the ground that the police feared a breach of the peace at one of the four collieries if the miners had been allowed to proceed. The men were convicted of wilfully obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty.
Held: The appeal was dismissed: ‘The situation has to be assessed by the senior police officers present. Provided they honestly and reasonably form the opinion that there is a real risk of a breach of the peace in the sense that it is in close proximity both in place and time, then the conditions exist for reasonable preventive action including, if necessary, the measures taken in this case. . . But, says [counsel], the police can only take preventive action if a breach of the peace is imminent and there was no such imminence here.’ R v Howell] must be read in the light of Piddington v Bates and ‘We do not think that there is any conflict between the two approaches. The possibility of a breach must be real to justify any preventive action. The imminence or immediacy of the threat to the peace determines what action is reasonable.’ Later Skinner J added: ‘For the reasons we have given, on the facts found by the magistrates, a breach of the peace was not only a real possibility but also, because of the proximity of the pits and the availability of cars, imminent, immediate and not remote.’


Skinner J, Otton J


[1985] IRLR 76


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Howell (Errol) CACD 1981
The court considered the meaning of the legal concept of a breach of the peace.
Held: The essence is to be found in violence or threatened violence. ‘We entertain no doubt that a constable has a power of arrest where there is reasonable . .
CitedPiddington v Bates 1960
Two entrances to a printing works were picketed by striking printers. A police officer decided that there should be no more than two pickets at each entrance. The defendant wished to join the two pickets at the rear entrance. The officer said two . .

Cited by:

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 . .
CitedMoos and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Commissioner of the Police of The Metropolis Admn 14-Apr-2011
The claimants, demonstrators at the G20 summit, complained of the police policy of kettling, the containment of a crowd over a period of time, not because they were expected to to behave unlawfully, but to ensure a separation from those who were. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Torts – Other

Updated: 05 July 2022; Ref: scu.221536