In 2005, the Labour Government – as part of a series of measures which have eroded British citizens' civil rights – passed the Serious Organised Crime Act.

Section 132 (demonstrating without authorisation in designated area), s.133 (notice of demonstrations in designated area), s.134 (authorisation of demonstrations in designated area), s.135 (supplementary directions) and s.136 (offences under sections 132 to 135: penalties) all effectively ban peaceful demonstrations outside Parliament and within one kilometre of Parliament unless–

  • authorised by the Met Commissioner,
  • notice has been given to him at least 6 days before the demonstration is planned to take place
  • the Commissioner authorises the demonstration.

The Commissioner may impose any conditions he thinks fit and, in addition to the Commissioner's conditions, a senior police officer at the actual demonstration can impose any further conditions he thinks fit.

Section 138(3) defines the "designated area" as being one kilometre from any point in Parliament Square.  This effectively means that it is illegal to peacefully protest outside the Houses of Parliament without prior permission. 

Organising, taking part in or carrying on a demonstration without the Commissioner's permission within one km of Parliament is a crime punishable by 51 weeks' imprisonment, or a fine.  Failing to comply with any of the Commissioner's conditions is a crime, punishable with a fine.  Failing to comply with a senior police officer's conditions is a crime, also punishable with a fine.  Inciting someone to commit a "crime" under these sections, or to fail to do anything that he is required by these sections to fo, is also guilty of a crime, and is punishable with 51 weeks' imprisonment or a fine.

Why is this idea important?

The right to protest is a right which, in the United States and under international human rights laws, is a basic right guaranteed to all people. 

The provisions of this Act, it appears to many, unjustifiably limit the public's right to peaceful protest and create crimes out of ordinary democratic rights.  These sections should be repealed and British civil liberties in this regard restored.

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