Viewpoint: Decision on kettling by European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that ‘kettling’ tactics used by the Met in 2001 protests were lawful.

Kiron Reid, Lecturer in the School of Law, said: “The kettling decision is wrong. This is why we need a British Bill of Rights.

“The European Court of Human Rights decision on the May Day 2001 protests is wrong. It fails to discriminate between lawful protesters, bystanders caught up in a situation, and those intending to act unlawfully. This is why we need a British Bill of Rights because the ECHR and our own courts have failed to protect the right to peaceful protest.

“The Court is both too conservative, and the ten years it has taken to hear such a significant case shows why reform is urgently needed.

“This judgment gives the police the green light to interfere with freedom to protest, continuing a tradition that sees protest as bad rather than good. The damage violence and disorder on May Day 2001 were extreme. The court has fallen into error by focusing on that rather than on the steps the police should take to consider whether there is a real risk of a breach of the peace and who from. They have also ignored that the British Parliament enacted the Public Order Act 1986 to control processions and assemblies – that should have been used not vague common law powers. These are the same errors the British courts made.

“At the same time the legal strategy taken by the appellants was wrong. They concentrated on Article 5 right to liberty rather than Article 10 freedom of expression and Article 11 freedom of association. Temporary deprivation of liberty was not likely to infringe Article 5. The legal team should have concentrated on 10 and 11, and on challenging the erroneous use of breach of the peace instead of the appropriate legislation. The lawyers must share the blame for this judgment as they took the wrong strategy.”

Read the BBC coverage.

Kiron Reid lectures on criminal law and police powers. He is a regular observer at protests and was himself ‘kettled’ at the Cardiff Unite Against Fascism anti-English / Welsh Defence League demonstration, 5 June 2010, when observing the policing of the protests.

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