QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
MR JUSTICE GRAY
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|THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE OF THE METROPOLIS
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Mr J Beer (instructed by Directorate of Legal Services, Metropolitan Police Service) for the Defendant
Crown Copyright ©
Lord Justice Sedley :
This is the judgment of the court.
"Critical Mass has no leaders, and no goals other than to meet every month and enjoy the security of riding through the city together."
It is, of course, their numbers that make the participants a critical mass in the scientific as well as the social sense. Pauses are sometimes held to mark places where cyclists have been killed in collisions, and occasionally a segment will make for a particular venue such as an embassy to demonstrate in response to political events. However, the police identify two particular kinds of objective which they have observed the group making for: places where maximum disruption to vehicular traffic can be caused, such as Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street, and places where cyclists are considered to get a hard time from motor vehicles, such as Euston Road and Blackfriars Bridge, making the Critical Mass event a form of payback. The claimant, who has been involved in these rides since their early days but is otherwise a nominal party, rejects this as an account of his (and most other riders') motivation, which is, he says, simply to celebrate cycling.
"There is no single aim of CM, although there is a shared wish to see less car-dominated cities and more people cycling. There are as many aims of CM as there are participants. Each individual comes there with his or her own idea of what it's about, and the sum of this makes up the mass."
The site goes on to instance a variety of individual participants' aims, including these:
- To raise the profile of cycling in towns and cities
- Campaigning for better provision for cyclists
- To raise awareness about pollution and other problems caused by cars
- Getting our own back at motorists
- To demonstrate opposition to car culture
- To cause disruption
- To feel good about being safe on a bike on roads which are usually dangerous
- To create a vision and experience of a possible future
- To meet friends and go for a beer later.
11 Advance notice of public processions
(1) Written notice shall be given in accordance with this section of any proposal to hold a public procession intended –
(a) to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person or body of persons,
(b) to publicise a cause or campaign, or
(c) to mark or commemorate an event,
unless it is not reasonably practicable to give any advance notice of the procession.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply where the procession is one commonly or customarily held in the police area (or areas) in which it is proposed to be held or is a funeral procession organised by a funeral director acting in the normal course of his business.
(3) The notice must specify the date when it is intended to hold the procession, the time when it is intended to start it, its proposed route, and the name and address of the person (or one of the persons) proposing to organise it.
(7) Where a public procession is held, each of the persons organising it is guilty of an offence if-
(a) the requirements of this section as to notice have not been satisfied, or
(b) the date when it is held, the time when it starts, or its route, differs from the date, time or route specified in the notice.
(8) It is a defence for the accused to prove that he did not know of, and neither suspected nor had reason to suspect, the failure to satisfy the requirements or (as the case may be) the difference of date, time or route.
(9) To the extent that an alleged offence turns on a difference of date, time or route, it is a defence for the accused to prove that the difference arose from circumstances beyond his control or from something done with the agreement of a police officer or by his discretion.
There is thus no offence of simple participation in an un-notified procession. The responsibility for giving notice, and the liability for failing to give it, rests upon the organiser or organisers.
12 Imposing conditions on public processions
(1) If the senior police officer, having regard to the time or place at which and the circumstances in which any public procession is being held or is intended to be held and to its route or proposed route, reasonably believes that –
(a) it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or
(b) the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or do an act they have a right not to do,
he may give directions imposing on the persons organising or taking part in the procession such conditions as appear to him necessary to prevent such disorder, damage, disruption or intimidation, including conditions as to the route of the procession or prohibiting it from entering any public place specified in the directions.
Section 13 then provides for a total ban where s.12 conditions will not be adequate. For the Metropolitan Police area subsection (4) provides:
13 Prohibiting public processions
(4) If at any time the Commissioner of Police for the City of London or the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis reasonably believes that, because of particular circumstances existing in his police area or part of it, the powers under section 12 will not be sufficient to prevent the holding of public processions in that area or part from resulting in serious public disorder, he may with the consent of the Secretary of State make an order prohibiting for such period not exceeding 3 months as may be specified in the order the holding of all public processions (or of any class of public procession so specified) in the area or part concerned.
Both sections criminalise any organiser of or participant in a non-compliant or banned procession.
Critical Mass Cycle Demonstrations
Organisers of public processions are required by law to notify police at least 6 days before the event occurs of the date, time, proposed route and name and address of an organiser. Failure to do so makes the event unlawful.
Demonstrations within a designated area around Parliament must also be notified, and anyone taking part in an unauthorised demonstration commits an offence.
Police can impose conditions on processions, demonstrations and other assemblies, and participants render themselves liable to arrest if they fail to comply with those conditions.
These cycle protests are not lawful because no organiser has provided police with the necessary notification. Your participation in this event could render you liable to prosecution. Police policy in facilitating these events is currently under review.
If you intend to organise a future similar event please refer to the Metropolitan Police website, www.met.police.uk for details. It is preferable for all parties if a lawful event can be safely facilitated, rather than the Police having to enforce legislation.
New Scotland Yard
(1) The event has none of the intentions specified in s.11(1).
(2) The event is a commonly or customarily held procession to which the exemption in s. 11(2) applies.
(3) The event has no organiser capable of being identified under s. 11(3).
(4) The event has no proposed route capable of being notified under s. 11(3).
The first and second of these propositions are contested by Jason Beer on behalf of the Commissioner. The third, in his submission, cannot be determined on an application like this. The fourth, he submits, is a non-issue because if notice is required, a route has to be specified in it.
A route and an organiser?
A relevant intention?
Commonly or customarily held?
"….none of these monthly events have ever been notified under s.11 of the Public Order Act 1986. It is however, and always has been, the view of the MPS that they are processions within the meaning of s.11…"