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 successful, and suspended sentences imposed. The defendants had expressed remorse for their actions and good intent for the future, and in those circumstances, the Court of Appeal accepted that the custody threshold was not crossed and a community sentence with a punitive element would have met the justice of the case: ‘The Strasbourg jurisprudence does not support the proposition that detention is necessarily disproportionate for the conduct with which these appeals are concerned. On the contrary, the Strasbourg Court has accepted as proportionate both immediate sentences of imprisonment and suspended sentences in cases where the conduct in question caused less harm and was less culpable. In this way, the ECHR marches with the common law. The underlying circumstances of peaceful protest are at the heart of the sentencing exercise. There are no bright lines, but particular caution attaches to immediate custodial sentences.’
The conscientious motives of protestors will be taken into account when they are sentenced for their offences but that there is in essence a bargain or mutual understanding operating in such cases. A sense of proportion on the part of the offenders in avoiding excessive damage or inconvenience is matched by a relatively benign approach to sentencing. When sentencing an offender, the value of the right to freedom of expression finds its voice in the approach to sentencing. However there was no unspoken rule of law against imposing a sentence of imprisonment
The court considered a suggestion of bias by the trial judge, and having considered the full circumstances alleged, finding the allegations to be overstated.
Burnett of Maldon LCJ, Phillips, Cutts JJ
 EWCA Crim 2739,  1 Cr App R (S) 48,  1 WLR 2577,  WLR(D) 745,  Env LR 17
Bailii, Judiciary, WLRD
England and Wales
Cited – Bonnard v Perryman CA 2-Jan-1891
Although the courts possessed a jurisdiction, ‘in all but exceptional cases’, they should not issue an interlocutory injunction to restrain the publication of a libel which the defence sought to justify except where it was clear that that defence . .
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 – Locabail (UK) Ltd, Regina v Bayfield Properties Ltd CA 17-Nov-1999
Adverse Comments by Judge Need not be Show of Bias
In five cases, leave to appeal was sought on the basis that a party had been refused disqualification of judges on grounds of bias. The court considered the circumstances under which a fear of bias in a court may prove to be well founded: ‘The mere . .
Cited – McCartan Turkington Breen (A Firm) v Times Newspapers Limited HL 2-Nov-2000
(Northern Ireland) The defendant reported a press conference at which the claims denying the criminal responsibility of an army private were made. The report was severely critical of the claimants, who then sued in defamation. The defendants claimed . .
Cited – Regina v Shayler HL 21-Mar-2002
The defendant had been a member of the security services. On becoming employed, and upon leaving, he had agreed to keep secret those matters disclosed to him. He had broken those agreements and was being prosecuted. He sought a decision that the . .
Cited – 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, . .
Cited – Regina v Rimmington; Regina v Goldstein HL 21-Jul-2005
Common Law – Public Nuisance – Extent
The House considered the elements of the common law offence of public nuisance. One defendant faced accusations of having sent racially offensive materials to individuals. The second was accused of sending an envelope including salt to a friend as a . .
Cited – Regina v Jones (Margaret), Regina v Milling and others HL 29-Mar-2006
Domestic Offence requires Domestic Defence
Each defendant sought to raise by way of defence of their otherwise criminal actions, the fact that they were attempting to prevent the commission by the government of the crime of waging an aggressive war in Iraq, and that their acts were . .
Cited – Jones and Others, Regina v CACD 20-Sep-2006
Several defendants appealed their sentences after conviction for offences in connection with a political demonstration, and: ‘These cases therefore raise the issue of the propriety of a significant punishment and also of an anti-social behaviour . .
Cited – Hall and Others v Mayor of London (on Behalf of The Greater London Authority) CA 16-Jul-2010
The appellants sought leave to appeal against an order for possession of Parliament Square on which the claimants had been conducting a demonstration (‘the Democracy Village’).
Held: Leave was refused save for two appellants whose cases were . .
Cited – The Mayor Commonalty and Citizens of London v Samede (St Paul’s Churchyard Camp Representative) and Others CA 22-Feb-2012
The defendants sought to appeal against an order for them to vacate land outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London which they occupied as a protest.
Held: The application for leave to appeal failed. The only possible ground for appeal was on the . .
Cited – Taranenko v Russia ECHR 15-May-2014
The Court considered the question of the proportionality of a sentence imposed for crime committed in the course of peaceful protest. . .
Cited – Drieman and others v Norway ECHR 4-May-2000
A challenge to the conviction and sentencing of the claimants for disrupting a lawful whaling expedition was held inadmissible. A fine was considered to be proportionate for such direct action. . .
Cited – Steel and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 23-Sep-1998
The several applicants had been arrested in different circumstances and each charged with breach of the peace contrary to common law. Under the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980, the court can bind over a Defendant to keep the peace, if the Defendant . .
Cited – Osmani v The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ECHR 11-Oct-2001
The applicant, a mayor, organised an armed vigil to protect the Albanian flag in defiance of an order of the Constitutional Court. He made a speech fomenting interethnic violence. Weapons were found in the town hall and there was a riot involving . .
Cited – Lucas v The United Kingdom ECHR 18-Mar-2003
Detention for a few hours following arrest for wilful obstruction of the highway and then a fine was proportionate: ‘An analysis of the Court’s case-law . . reveals that the Contracting States’ discretion in punishing illegal conduct intertwined . .
Cited – Barraco v France ECHR 5-Mar-2009
A suspended sentence of imprisonment, together with a fine, was a proportionate sanction for a protest which resulted in the severe slowing-down of traffic on a motorway. . .
Cited – Jones and Others v The Commissioner of Police for The Metropolis Admn 6-Nov-2019
Distributed Demonstration not within 1986 Act
The claimants, seeking to demonstrate support for the extinction rebellion movement by demonstrating in London, now challenged an order made under the 1986 Act restricting their right to demonstrate.
Held: The XRAU was not a public assembly at . .
Cited – National Highways Ltd v Heyatawin and Others QBD 17-Nov-2021
The court considered allegations of contempt of court by protesters disobeying court injunctions.
Held: The allegations were variously proved, and indeed were largely uncontested. Sentences of imprisonment were imposed ranging up to 6 months: . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 22 November 2021; Ref: scu.630985