Protest Law - Matrix Chambers
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Protest Law

Matrix offers an unrivalled combination of specialist skills and expertise in all areas of protest law.

We are the go-to set for protest-related cases and our expert barristers are routinely instructed in the most high-profile protest-related cases. This includes criminal proceedings, anti-protest injunctions, civil actions, public inquiries and other proceedings raising issues concerning the rights to freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and the right to public assembly.

Clients benefit from our unrivalled multidisciplinary expertise across these areas.

Criminal proceedings

Our specialist barristers routinely act for protesters at all stages of the criminal process, from trials in the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court, through to the appeal stages, in Crown Court, the High Court, by way of case stated, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights.

They have acted for activists in all of the prominent protest movements of recent years, around issues such as animal rights (including fox hunting), climate change (including Extinction Rebellion (“XR”)), the “Occupy” movement, austerity (including the controversial use of “poor doors”), fracking, racism (including Black Lives Matter (“BLM”)), war, nuclear disarmament, drones, and the arms trade (including those protesting the DSEI arms fair).

Barristers are experts in cases involving direct action protests, and are regularly brought into cases at first instance or on appeal, to advance justification and necessity defences, and reasonableness arguments pursuant to Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”), protecting private and family life, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and the right to public assembly.

Our barristers excel in identifying novel legal arguments, drawing on extensive experience and expertise in other areas of law, including discrimination, environmental, public, public international, international criminal and international human rights law.

Notable Cases

  • Supreme Court appeal in DPP v Ziegler [2020] QB 253 (concerning the lawfulness of deliberately obstructive protest),
  • Thacker & Ors v DPP [2021] EWCA Crim 97(“the Stansted 15”) (concerning the use of anti-terrorism legislation against peaceful anti-deportation protestors),
  • R v Roberts [2019] 1 WLR 2577 (concerning the correct approach to the sentencing of peaceful protesters).

Injunctions

Matrix barristers are experts in challenging the use of civil injunctions by public authorities and corporate actors to restrict the right to protest, including the increasing use of injunctions against “persons unknown”, and the deployment of anti-harassment legislation against activists. Matrix members were instructed in the lead case of INEOS v Persons Unknown [2019] 4 WLR 100, in which the Court of Appeal struck down a wide-ranging injunction restraining anti-fracking protest activity by “persons unknown” directed towards a fracking company and its supply chain.

Civil actions, judicial reviews and public inquiries

Our team of barristers are frequently instructed in the most high-profile civil claims and judicial review challenges concerning protest rights, including purported blanket restrictions on such rights (including R (Jones) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2020] 1 WLR 519, the successful challenge to the Metropolitan Police’s order, pursuant to section 14 of the Public Order Act, to prevent Extinction Rebellion protests in London).

A number of our counsel team also represent activists, protest groups and others at the Undercover Policing Inquiry, investigating the use of undercover policing in England and Wales. They also act in civil claims against the police relating to the use of deceptive sexual relationships by undercover officers as a surveillance and evidence gathering tool. Our barristers also have extensive experience in civil actions arising out of protest-related activity, including allegations of unlawful stop and search and the excessive use of force against activists, and the retention of fingerprints and DNA and other personal data and information.

Our team also routinely acts in judicial review cases involving protest groups, including cases brought by campaigning organisations to challenge matters such as airport expansion, weapons exports and austerity measures through the courts.