Court Case into Royal Wedding Arrests Starts at the High Court on Monday
On the 29th of April 2011, as William Windsor and Kate Middleton got married, the Metropolitan Police arrested dozens of people across London pre-emptively ‘to prevent a breach of the peace’. Innocent people were arrested, handcuffed and detained for crimes which they had not committed, in an apparent attempt to silence potential dissent. The arrests have been dubbed ‘precrime’ in many circles.
Thirteen months later, 15 of those arrested been granted leave to challenge their arrests by way of a Judicial Review which will begin at the High Court on Monday 28th of May 2012. It is hoped that the results of the court case will have an impact on future policing of such events such as the Olympics, or the Diamond Jubilee which will take place immediately after the Judicial Review hearing.
Those arrested on the 29th of April 2011 were not a cohesive group and they did not have cohesive aims. Some were people on their way to peaceful protests, some were people the police merely suspected of being protestors. Those arrested include members of the ‘Charing Cross 10’ who were on their way to a republican street party, the ‘Starbucks Zombies’ who were arrested from an Oxford Street branch of Starbucks for wearing zombie fancy dress, and a man who was simply walking in London and was stopped and arrested by plainclothes officers because he was a ‘known activist’.
All of the claimants were released without charge once the public celebrations had finished.
“It is our view that the treatment of our clients was unlawful under common law and was in breach of their fundamental rights” said a spokesperson from Bhatt Murphy, the civil liberties solicitors who are representing the claimants. “The apparent existence of an underlying policy that resulted in those arrests is a matter of considerable concern with implications for all those engaged in peaceful dissent or protest.”
The Metropolitan Police’s actions over the Royal Wedding weekend are part of a trend of the police using increasingly heavy-handed tactics against peaceful protestors. Such tactics create a ‘chilling effect’ which dissuades others from protesting in the future. The use of such tactics raises questions of constitutional significance with regard to the role of policing in a democracy.
The Judicial Review hearing will be heard with three other cases arising out of the police’s actions over the course of the Royal Wedding bank holiday weekend: two concerning raids on squats on April 28th by officers of the Metropolitan Police Service and the other arising out of another pre-emptive arrest of a minor on the day of the Royal Wedding.
The claimants are being represented by Karon Monaghan QC and Ruth Brander. The claimants in the three other cases have different legal teams.
The website Pageantry and Precrime has blog posts, accounts, and footage from various arrests on the day of the royal wedding. It aims to gather all public domain information on the court case into one place
Bhatt Murphy is a leading civil liberties firm which specialises in police misconduct, prisoners’ rights, deaths in custody and immigration detention.
“The British Transport Police officer’s comment confirmed our suspicions that the police were using pre-emptive arrests as a political tactic to keep republican voices off the streets and out of the public eye.”
– Daniel Randall, Charing Cross 10 arrestee
“I was told by the police, ‘if you’re going to dress like that, you’ve got to expect to be arrested’. And I thought I had to break the law to be arrested…”
– Erich, Starbucks Zombie arrestee