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Article

9 Aug 2021

Author:
Lizzie Dearden, the Independent

UK: Extinction Rebellion urges government to ‘stop trying to criminalise protesters’ amid wave of collapsed cases

"UK: Extinction Rebellion urges government to ‘stop trying to criminalise protesters’ amid wave of collapsed cases", 9 August 2021.

Extinction Rebellion has called for the government to stop “trying to criminalise” its protesters after a succession of cases collapsed.

Judges have quashed several verdicts in recent days amid a tide of appeals against convictions for highway obstruction during demonstrations over climate change.

Appeals loom for dozens more cases and Extinction Rebellion expects its legal success to continue following a Supreme Court ruling that protests can be a lawful excuse to block roads.

[...]

The government is backing controversial new protest laws in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would allow police to impose restrictions on protests based on noise, create a criminal offence of “public nuisance”, lower the bar for prosecuting people who violate conditions and increase prison sentences.

“With its PCSC Bill, this government would like to limit public protest until it becomes meaningless and ineffectual,” Ms Blackler said.

“But as recent judgments have confirmed, there is a firmly established, legal right to peaceful protest in this country which the courts will uphold. We will continue to exercise those rights until our government stops trying to silence its critics and starts doing whatever is required to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of climate and ecological breakdown.”

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped its fight against the fourth appeal by an Extinction Rebellion protester in four days on Friday.

[...]

The CPS is conducting a “case-by-case review” of appeals listed to be heard over the coming weeks and will announce its decision on several cases at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

At least six appeals by Extinction Rebellion protesters have also been upheld at Southwark Crown Court recently.

[...]

...in June, a legal challenge brought by protesters who blockaded a London arms fair in 2017 resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that demonstrations can be a “lawful excuse” for the crime of highway obstruction.

The UK’s senior judges said there “should be a certain degree of tolerance to disruption to ordinary life, including disruption of traffic, caused by the exercise” of the right to protest.

The judgment triggered the current wave of successful appeals at the Old Bailey and elsewhere.

[...]