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mark barrett found guilty of unauthorised protest today

rikki | 05.04.2006 14:09 | SOCPA | Indymedia | Repression

judge anthony evans delivered a written verdict today which he refused to read out in court. he handed down a £250 fine, plus £250 costs, and of course a criminal record. mark barrett will appeal to a higher court on human rights grounds.

for a full report on this court case, go to

today, the defendant, mark barrett, returned to receive the verdict and sentencing. judge anthony evans refused to read out his written verdict, and refused to enter into discussion over the severity of the sentence.

in previous cases, participants of "unauthorised" demonstrations in parliament square have received conditional discharges, or small fines (the highest so far being £100). the costs awarded have generally been small too, typically £50 to £150, with the higher end reserved for those the judge had thought had wasted court time by "trying to wriggle out of it".

in contrast, mark's case took up just one afternoon of court time, although two of his own after the first adjournment in march, and he represented himself and did not contest any of the 'facts' of the case. his defence was twofold: first - did a picnic by a campaigning group and a banner-making workshop (with no planned demonstration that day) really constitute a demonstration in terms of the law? and second - did the use of this law really accord with human rights legislation in terms of the rights of freedom of expression and free assembly?

the socpa act does not define a demonstration, and the written verdict relied on a dictionary definition and seemed to imply that since mark was known as a campaigner against this draconian legislation, and as the campaign held picnics each week on parliament square, then being at that picnic was of itself a demonstration. this interpretation has huge human rights significance. it would suggest that the designated zone is pretty much a no-go area for anyone who holds political views - any attempt at meeting others or having political or campaigning discussions could be met by arrest, not insignificant fines, and a criminal record for life!

the battle against this ridiculous legislation will step up a gear, and as court cases continue up the legislative system, we hope there will be more media coverage and public debate about it. today, there were several journalists in court to hear the verdict. mark was interviewed for the lunchtime bbc local news, and they did quite a long piece on the subject, including legal analysis. it would be helpful if anyone reading this this afternoon could call the bbc viewers' line (0870 010 0222) to commend the report, and encourage them to show it again at 6.30, as well as continue the reporting on this subject generally.

the next important court date is next week at bow street at 10am on wednesday the 12th april, when milan rai will receive the verdict of his trial as an 'organiser' of an unauthorised demonstration. (see ). the penalties for an 'organiser' are much stiffer, and he faces possible imprisonment, with fines up to £5000. his crime? quietly reading out the names of dead british soldiers and iraqi civilians with one other person, maya evans, opposite downing street one cold october morning last year.

for further information about the campaign against the socpa 132 legislation and the weekly picnics, see

brian haw, whose one-man anti-war vigil outside parliament is thought to have been the root reason for this legislation, has been in the high court again this week as the government and met police try to overturn a decision to allow him to stay in the square. (currently, he is there on the basis that his demonstration started years prior to this new legislation and cannot be outlawed retrospectively). he has been up against charles clarke in the high court twice before and is now waiting for the verdict on this latest appeal (which was brought by an ever more desperate government).

for more information on brian haw and this week's imminent verdict, see

please also seet recent indymedia reports on the april fool's parade and on the naming the dead ceremony. both of these were 'unauthorised' protests in the area, but there were no directly connected arrests. this may have been because of the larger numbers of people involved, and/or the presence of media. moral of this story? if you want to demonstrate near parliament and keep your record clean, take a large crowd and some media and they won't touch you!



Hide the following 12 comments

full text of the written verdict

05.04.2006 15:36

In this case the Defendant, Mr Mark Barrett, is charged with an offence contrary to S.132(1)(b) of the Serious Crimes & Police Act 2005. This makes it an offence to take part in a demonstration in a public place in the designated area without prior authorisation under S.134(2). The "designated area" has been specified by the Secretary of State in a Statutory Instrument (sic) The alleged offence took place in Parliament Square on 28th August 2005, which is within the Designated Area.

The facts in this case are not in dispute. PCs Sherwood and Garner were called to Parliament Square that afternoon at about 3.15. About fifteen people were sitting on the grass and two were standing up. They appeared to be having a tea party or picnic. However, on the grass were various banners and placards, some of which were being prepared, indicating support for various protest organisations, but more importantly, some of which read "Right to Protest". A similar placard was draped around the neck of the Defendant.

Shortly afterwards, Inspector Hart, the duty Inspector arrived and spoke to the Defendant. The Defendant denied that they were protesting and said that (sic) did not need prior authority as it was a picnic. The Inspector told them that they must stop, but could go to Trafalgar Square if they wished to protest or demonstrate. The Defendant's response was to point to the Houses of Parliament and say that this was the place to protest. He was warned that he might be arrested and his reply was that he would like it. He was subsequently arrested and taken to Charring (sic) Cross police station. The officers all accepted that the behaviour was not threatening nor did they fear for public safety.

The Defendant's evidence was that he is a member of a group which has established itself to campaign to have S.132 repealed. They had met there every Sunday since 7th August and on the day in question were having a banner-making workshop. The decision to wear the placard happened spontaneously.

"Demonstration" is not defined in the Act. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary contains a number of examples of the main definition, but the one that is most opposite (sic - surely 'apposite'!) is "an exhibition of public opinion on a political or other question, usualiy taking the form of a mass meeting or procession".

The organisers of the event had distributed leaflets which referred to it as a "picnic". However, I am satisfied that the matter cannot be determined by what title is given to it by the organisers or participants. Otherwise, provided that it was not called a "demonstration" or a "protest", then they would have a defence to any prosecution. It is up to the Court to decide objectively whether the event in question falls foul of the Act. Whatever may have been said on the publicity leaflets, I have also seen the publicity which was placed on the internet and this makes it clear in no uncertain terms that what was being held was a protest against the Act. In cross-examination the Defendant said that it was a protest specifically against the Act. They had chosen the location "to make our point". They deliberately had not applied for authorisation as this was part of their plan of subverting the law. He also accepted that by exhibiting the placard around his neck, he was showing his views.

It is clear, therefore, that what took place that day was intended to be as a protest against S.132 of the 2005 Act, and was viewed as such by the participants. They had deliberately not sought authorisation. The placards on the ground, but more importantly, the one around the Defendant's neck made it clear what was in issue - the Right to Protest. The dictionary definition says that a demonstration is usually a mass meeting or procession. The word "usually" is important as this imports the sense that it need not be a large event. The difference is one of degree, not of kind, and, indeed, S.132 makes it clear that an offence can be committed by a single person. In this case I am satisfied that the the Defendant was participating in a demonstration, for which prior authorisation had not been sought.

Mr Barrett also submitted that his Human Rights under the Convention, in particular Articles 10 and 11 were breached by the passing of the Act. Article 10 deals with the right to freedom of expression, and Article 11 the right freedom of peaceful assembly and association. These are, however, not unqualified rights and they may under paragraph 2 of each Article be subject to qualifications which are prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety..........

S.3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 makes it clear that any primary and secondary legislation must be read out (sic) given effect in a way that is compatible with Convention rights. In effect, the Defendant submits that S.132(1) should be read with an implied proviso "save that no offence is committed unless in all the circumstances any restrictions on the person's Convention rights is necessary in a democratic society".

In this case the Defendant is not being prohibited from exercising his rights under either Articles 10 and 11 in total terms. What is in issue are the qualifications or limits imposed by the 2005 Act in exercising those rights.

Under S.133 authorisation for a demonstration within the designated area must be sought in writing from the Commissioner six days beforehand, or as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any event not less than twenty four hours before the demonstration. By S.134(2) he must give permission. However by S.134(3)-(4) he may impose conditions for specific purposes. These are listed in S.134(3) and inciude matters such as public safety etc. S.134(4) sets out the type of matter which may be covered by the condition, such as timing, number of participants, etc.

It is clear that the Commissioner may grant authorisation without conditions. If the application is properly made, then he has no choice - he must grant it. Obviously, it is only when the application is made that the question of conditions will arise and each application will have to be judged on its own merits.

In this case the interference is prescribed by law. Strasbourg jurisprudence has examined in cases such as the Rassemblement Case the question of bans complete or partial on demonstration. In that case the ban was total, but it was held that the principle of proportionality had not been infringed. In Rai et ors v UK it was held that a ban on demonstrations in Trafalgar Square relating to Northern Ireland was not contrary to the Convention.

In R (on the application of Haw) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2005) EWHC 2061 (Admin). Lady Justice Smith accepted that the purposes of the Act are clear, viz to regulate demonstration in the vicinity of Parliament for the prevention of the various dangers set out in S.134(2). This must also be viewed against the general security situation. Simon J said in his judgement: "This control and relation was not intended for aesthetic reasons or to suppress legitimate extra-Parliamentary opposition, but because of Parliament's concern that the unrestricted exercise of freedom of expression close to the centre of Government and Parliament posed a threat to democratic freedom".

I am satisfied that what has been imposed by the Act comes within Paragraph 2 of Articles 10 and 11. It is a proportionate response. The area covered by the restriction is limited to an area around Parliament, no point of which is more than one kilometre away in a straight line. No other area is covered.

The Commissioner must grant the request and has a discretion to impose conditions. The penalty is only a Level 3 fine.

The reasons for introducing the Act were accepted by the Administrative Court in the Haw case and I am satisfied that Mr Barrett's Convention Rights have not been infringed.


Until Blair is convicted, British justice does not exist

05.04.2006 16:30

This verdict is an absolute total disgrace.

The law that allows for this verdict is a bad law which must be repealed.

British justice is turning into a farce.

Our reputation internationally sinks by the day.

Mark Barrett is not a criminal.

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is.

Matthew Cuffe
mail e-mail:
- Homepage:


05.04.2006 21:46

Not good. What was the fine set at? Is he going to appeal it?



05.04.2006 23:26

i love the bit in the written verdict "this control and relation was not intended for aesthetic reasons or to suppress legitimate extra-Parliamentary opposition, but because of Parliament's concern that the unrestricted exercise of freedom of expression close to the centre of Government and Parliament posed a threat to democratic freedom".

it's a wonderful orwellian admission. i understand the sense of this is that "unrestricted freedom" implies 'anarchists with molatovs', and "democratic freedom" suggests 'organised voting for the greater good', but really it exposes the lie that is our 'democracy'.

the molatov throwers are already outlawed and controlled, whether they be anarchists or country alliancers - witness the beatings that lot got! public order acts, and where deemed necessary, police brutality, are already available to deal with this type of "unrestricted freedom".

so the new legislation must be concerned with some other sort of "unrestricted freedom" - the type of freedom that brian haw currently has to expose the hypocrisy, lies, and murderous acts of our leaders perhaps.

and what then is meant by the term "democratic freedom"? is a rowdy or violent protest outside the gates of parliament really going to pose a threat to any true democratic freedom? once again, the laws are already in place to protect our elected leaders and the normal running of parliament. so perhaps "democratic freedom" refers to the freedom that these people have to get away with murder while still appearing responsible to the ballot box.

so this sentence admits a big lie. there are two types of freedom. bad freedom and good freedom. bad freedom is truly unrestricted freedom of expression. good freedom is the illusory freedom created by the powerful to appease the powerless. that is the only context in which this phrase can make any sense. many thanks to judge anthony evans for making this so clear.


answers to mi5's questions above

05.04.2006 23:30

the fine was £250, plus £250 court costs (as mentioned in the summary at the start of the report).

yes, mark barrett intends to appeal against the verdict at a higher court.



06.04.2006 06:59

Sorry. I'm picking up my first pair of glasses tomorrow- no joking!

I'm wondering what the feasibility of getting a so-to-speak rolling legal fund would be. In Berlin, there used to be (and may well still be) an organisation that offered to pay people's fines for travelling on the underground wth no ticket, in return for a membership fee. If I remember correctly, it was based on a kind of bookie's ecenomics of spreading the odds.

Just a thought.


As far as I can tell, it says:

06.04.2006 07:59

"this control and relation was not intended for aesthetic reasons or to suppress legitimate extra-Parliamentary opposition, but because of Parliament's concern that the unrestricted exercise of freedom of expression close to the centre of Government and Parliament posed a threat to democratic freedom".

This law wasn't passed to hide or hinder public dissent but rather that the government says that protesting in the square is a threat to democracy.

Is this the legalese equivalent of sarcasm??? It'd be too sick if it wasn't.



06.04.2006 08:25

fab idea about legal fund

please try to come to the sunday afternoon picnics and share ideas like these - the more people, the more ideas, the more energy. this law WILL be beaten.



06.04.2006 10:15

Would love to join you, but un/fortunately I after 15 years of living in London I've moved back to my native Scotland- might be needing arrested at "designated zones" this end soon enough. I'll contact you through your website and mull over the legal fund idea however?



06.04.2006 14:51

>In Berlin, there used to be (and may well still be) an organisation that offered to pay people's fines for travelling on the underground wth no ticket, in return for a membership fee.

Other cities still do have these schemes, I'd rather take my chances with the inspectors simply because I know the folk who run the schemes don't actually pay the fees themselves. Freeloading anarchists scum ! Hey, it's great you being positive, now I can be negative. Thing is though, I think a lot of people like me who are happy to pay donations in to an activists personal bank account wouldn't trust anyone with a central fund. Are there risks I don't know about in activists publishing their own bank account details ? It rarely seems to happen.

>might be needing arrested at "designated zones" this end soon enough.

Next weekend too soon ? There's a choice of breach of the peace or malicious mischief depending on how fast you are.



06.04.2006 17:22

Fair point about accounting. There's surely some way of making the books perpetully 100% transparent. In fact, I know a sympathetic bookkeeper I could ask.

No, being negative is good. The best way to build something robust is to keep trying to break it until stands up to a good kicking.


V for vendetta!

06.04.2006 20:58

V for vendetta!

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