In Feb 2011, Haringey Borough Council held a full council meeting to discuss proposed cuts to the authority’s budget.
A number of people, including the claimants, attended the meeting with a view to protesting against the proposed cuts. The meeting was suspended due to the noise being made by the protesters. The claimants believed that the meeting was due to continue behind closed doors and attempted to occupy the building.
The police ushered the protestors out of the building and arrested the claimants. The claimants brought claims seeking damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution and a declaration that their rights under ECHR, arts 10, 11 had been violated.
The claimant’s application was dismissed and the police’s actions were held to be lawful.
The Court noted that the organisers of a public meeting, including local authorities, had a common law power to forcibly exclude attendees whose disorderly conduct disrupted the business of the meeting. If the police were called upon to enforce this common law power they were acting lawfully as long any force used was proportionate.
On the facts of this case, the local authority was entitled to conclude that all members of the public had to be excluded from the meeting in order to allow it to proceed. Further, the police’s actions were proportionate in the furtherance of this aim.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC was involved in this case.