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Extinction Rebellion win High Court challenge against police

Sky News logo Sky News 6 days ago Chris Robertson, news reporter
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Extinction Rebellion have won a High Court challenge against a police ban on protests throughout London.

Scores of climate protesters were arrested for defying the ban, which was imposed by the Metropolitan Police last month.

a person sitting on the ground: Police remove a demonstrator during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London © Imagebridge Police remove a demonstrator during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

Extinction Rebellion held 10 days of protests in October, which shut down key areas of Central London, including Westminster, The City and London City Airport.

The Metropolitan Police used section 14 of the Public Order Act to try and prevent demonstrations involving more than two people.

The act was initially used to restrict protesters to Trafalgar Square in Central London, but police widened its powers following "continued breaches" of the order.

Extinction Rebellion's lawyers argued that the police's actions were beyond the powers of the act, which the Metropolitan Police said were used to tackle disruption caused by the protests.

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Announcing the judgment, Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Chamberlain said that London's police force did not have the power to put a ban in place, because the act used does not cover "separate assemblies".

a group of people wearing costumes: Police remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Trafalgar Square in central London in October © PA Police remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Trafalgar Square in central London in October

Lord Justice Dingemans said: "Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if coordinated under the umbrella of one body, are not a public assembly within the meaning of... the act.

"The XR Autumn Uprising intended to be held from 14 to 19 October was not therefore a public assembly... therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it under... the act."

The judges did note, however, that there are powers within the Public Order Act that could be used to legally "control future protests which are deliberately designed to 'take police resources to breaking point'" - which is one of the stated aims of Extinction Rebellion.

Gallery: Extinction Rebellion's protests around the world (Photos)

Speaking outside the High Court, Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer working with the climate group, said he was "delighted" at the result.

Mr Garnett added: "It vindicates our belief that the police's blanket ban was an unprecedented and now unlawful infringement on our right to protest.

"It's a victory for those who want to draw the government's attention to what scientists have been telling us for decades."

a group of people in uniform: Police carry away an Extinction Rebellion protester outside the BBC's headquarters in London © Getty Police carry away an Extinction Rebellion protester outside the BBC's headquarters in London The Metropolitan Police said that 1,832 people were arrested during the October protests, with more than 150 being charged with offences - it is not yet clear what will happen to those who were arrested under the act.

The Metropolitan Police did not initially respond to request for comment.

The court heard that the cost of policing Extinction Rebellion's "autumn uprising" was more than £20m.

Speaking to Sky News during the protests, the Metropolitan Police's commissioner, Cresida Dick, said that her force was being "stretched" by the protests, claiming officers had been taken away from other duties to cover the group's actions.

Watch: Where is your climate plan? Celebrities ask government (Sky)

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