Redmond-Bate v Director of Public Prosecutions: Admn 23 Jul 1999

The police had arrested three peaceful but vociferous preachers when some members of a crowd gathered round them threatened hostility.
Held: Freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom to be irritating, contentious, eccentric, heretical, unwelcome and provocative provided it did not tend to provoke violence. There was no reasonable inference available in this case to the police officer that the appellant, preaching about morality, was about to cause a breach of the peace.
Sedley LJ said: ‘A judgment as to the imminence of a breach of the peace does not conclude the constable’s task. The next and critical question for the constable, and in turn for the court, is where the threat is coming from, because it is there that preventive action must be directed. It is only if otherwise lawful conduct gives rise to a reasonable apprehension that it will, by interfering with the rights or liberties of others, provoke violence which, though unlawful, would not be entirely unreasonable that a constable is empowered to take steps to prevent it . . Mr Kealy for the prosecutor submitted that if there are two alternative sources of trouble, a constable can properly take steps against either. This is right, but only if both are threatening violence or behaving in a manner that might provoke violence’ and ‘The test to determine whether the police officer’s action was reasonable was an objective one, in the sense that it was for the courts to decide, not whether the view taken by that officer fell within the broad band of rational decisions but whether, in the light of what he knew and perceived at the time, the court was satisfied that it was reasonable to fear an imminent breach of the peace and that reasonableness had to be evaluated without the qualifications of hindsight.’
Sedley LJ said: ‘Freedom of speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative, provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having. What Speakers’ Corner (where the law applies as fully as anywhere else) demonstrates is the tolerance which is both extended by the law to opinion of every kind and expected by the law in the conduct of those who disagree, even strongly, with what they hear. From the condemnation of Socrates to the persecution of modern writers and journalists, our world has seen too many examples of state control of unofficial ideas. A central purpose of the European Convention on Human Rights has been to set close limits to any such assumed power. We in this country continue to owe a debt to the jury which in 1670 refused to convict the Quakers William Penn and William Mead for preaching ideas which offended against state orthodoxy.’


Sedley LJ


Times 28-Jul-1999, [2000] HRLR 249, [1999] EWHC Admin 733, (1999) 7 BHRC 375, [1999] Crim LR 998, (1999) 163 JP 789, CO/188/99




Police Act 1996 89(2)


England and Wales


CitedHandyside v The United Kingdom ECHR 7-Dec-1976
Freedom of Expression is Fundamental to Society
The appellant had published a ‘Little Red Schoolbook’. He was convicted under the 1959 and 1964 Acts on the basis that the book was obscene, it tending to deprave and corrupt its target audience, children. The book claimed that it was intended to . .
CitedBeatty v Gilbanks CA 13-Jun-1882
A lawful Salvation Army march attracted disorderly opposition and was therefore the occasion of a breach of the peace.
Held: It could not be found a case of unlawful assembly against the leaders of the Salvation Army march. Accepting that a . .
CitedDuncan 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 . .
CitedWise v Dunning KBD 1902
A protestant preacher in Liverpool was held to be liable to be bound over to keep the peace upon proof that he habitually accompanied his public speeches with behaviour calculated to insult Roman Catholics. His actions had caused, and were liable to . .
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 . .
CitedRegina v Nicol and Selvanayagam QBD 10-Nov-1995
The appellants appealed a bind-over for a finding that each appellant had been guilty of conduct whereby a breach of the peace was likely to be occasioned. The appellants, concerned about cruelty to animals, had obstructed an angling competition by . .
CitedPercy v Director of Public Prosecutions QBD 13-Dec-1994
A woman protester repeatedly climbed over the perimeter fencing into a military base.
Held: The defendant had a choice between agreeing to be bound over and going to prison. Her refusal to agree to be bound over had an immediate and obvious . .
CitedRegina v Morpeth Ward Justices, ex parte Ward 1992
A bind-over was upheld on people who had noisily and turbulently disrupted a pheasant shoot. . .

Cited by:

DistinguishedNorwood v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 3-Jul-2003
The appellant a BNP member had displayed a large poster in his bedroom window saying ‘Islam out of Britain’. He was convicted of an aggravated attempt to cause alarm or distress. The offence was established on proof of several matters, unless the . .
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 . .
CitedWragg, Regina (on the Application Of) v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 15-Jun-2005
The court faced a case stated where the defendant had been accused of resisting arrest. The officers claimed to have anticipated a breach of the peace, having been called to a domestic dispute.
Held: Though the defendant had not behaved with . .
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 . .
CitedBibby v Chief Constable of Essex Police CA 6-Apr-2000
A bailiff sought to execute against goods in a shop against the will of the occupier. The police attended and when tempers were raised the police officer anticipated a breach of the peace by the bailiff and arrested him. He sought damages for that . .
CitedSingh, Regina (on the Application of) v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 28-Jul-2006
Sikh protesters set out to picket a theatre production which they considered to offend their religion. The respondent used a existing ASBO dispersal order which had been obtained for other purposes, to control the demonstration.
Held: The . .
CitedLaporte, Regina (on the application of ) v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire HL 13-Dec-2006
The claimants had been in coaches being driven to take part in a demonstration at an air base. The defendant police officers stopped the coaches en route, and, without allowing any number of the claimants to get off, returned the coaches to London. . .
CitedRegina (Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 23-May-2001
A prison policy requiring prisoners not to be present when their property was searched and their mail was examined was unlawful. The policy had been introduced after failures in search procedures where officers had been intimidated by the presence . .
CitedGaunt v OFCOM and Liberty QBD 13-Jul-2010
The claimant, a radio presenter sought judicial review of the respondent’s finding (against the broadcaster) that a radio interview he had conducted breached the Broadcasting Code. He had strongly criticised a proposal to ban smokers from being . .
CitedAbdul and Others v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 16-Feb-2011
The defendants appealed against convictions for using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour . . within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. He had attended a . .
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. . .
CitedMcClure and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v The Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis CA 19-Jan-2012
The Commissioner appealed against a decision that certain aspects of its crowd control procedures exercised during a public protest were unlawful.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The issue came down to whether the commanding officer genuinely held . .
CitedDehal v Crown Prosecution Service Admn 27-Sep-2005
The appellant had been convicted under section 4 of the 1986 Act. He had been accused of attending at Luton Guruwarda and intending to cause distress. He said that he had gone only peacefully to express his true religious beliefs. He had left a . .
CitedJewish Rights Watch (T/A Jewish Human Rights Watch), Regina (on The Application of) v Leicester City Council Admn 28-Jun-2016
The claimant challenged the legaity of resolutions passed by three local authorities which were critical of the State of Israel. They said that the resolultions infringed the Public Sector Equality Duty under section 149 of the 2010 Act, and also . .
CitedRoberts and Others v Regina CACD 6-Dec-2018
Sentencing of Political Protesters
The defendants appealed against sentences for causing a public nuisance. They had been protesting against fracking by climbing aboard a lorry and blocking a main road for several days.
Held: The appeals from immediate custodial sentences were . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Crime, Police

Leading Case

Updated: 15 September 2022; Ref: scu.139996