Protest marches banned in five London boroughs
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has authorised the Commissioner of the Met Police to prohibit protest marches from taking place in five London boroughs during September.
The decision comes as the English Defence League announced plans to march through Tower Hamlets. EDL marches tend to be directly confronted by the Unite Against Fascism group, amongst others, which has led to disorder in the past.
“Having carefully considered the legal tests in the Public Order Act and balanced rights to protest against the need to ensure local communities and property are protected,” said the Home Secretary, “I have given my consent to a ban on all marches in Tower Hamlets and four neighbouring boroughs for a 30-day period.”
The neighbouring boroughs are Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington, and Hackney.
Static demonstrations are not affected by the ban, however, and the EDL plan to hold a static gathering instead. Neither the government nor the police can ban a static demonstration unless it is held on private property.
Chief Superintendant Julia Pendry, of the Met Police, said: “We have made this decision based on specific intellgence and information, and our message is clear, we do not want people coming into the areas to attend these events.”
Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986 gives the Met Commissioner the power to make an order banning marches and processions in London, subject to permission from the Home Secretary. If a prohibited march goes ahead, the organisers can be arrested and fined £2,500 or jailed for 3 months. People taking part in a banned march can be fined up to £1,000.
A march can only be banned where the police consider that it would result in serious public disorder and that placing restrictions on it – for example, on its duration, location and size – would not be enough to prevent disorder. The local council must support the police assessment before a formal application can be made to the Home Secretary.
The ban on marches does not apply where the procession is one commonly or customarily held in the police area in which it is proposed to be held. Funeral processions are also exempt.
Image via Jerry Daykin, Flickr.