In recent months many public demonstrations have hit the headlines of the world’s media and at the centre of these headlines if often the rights that individuals or groups of people have when holding a demonstration, march or procession. Within this blog post I will run over your rights regarding marches and processions in public regarding how the police or authorities handle you and how you must organise a procession to hold it lawfully.
What is a Procession?
Firstly you must understand what the term “procession” means. The Public Order Act labels a procession as a group of people moving along a route; however, the act does not clearly state the minimum number of people who are categorised as a procession. However, in general a procession is categorised as a group of individuals moving along a single route.
What Rights do The Police Have over Processions?
Police currently have extensive control over processions across England. Police are able to place conditions and even ban a procession from taking place if they believe the correct procedures have not been followed by the organisers of the processions or its puts the public at risk. Furthermore, if you do not comply with the ban or conditions imposed by the police it is in-fact a criminal offence.
The police retain the right to make conditions when the procession is under way; however, these decisions can only be made by certain authorities within the police force. However, the POA say that conditions can only be put in place if serious public disorder takes place, serious damage to property or if serious disruption is caused to the community life. Furthermore, all conditions given must be in writing.
What Procedures Must a Procession Organiser Follow?
In order to hold a legal procession there are multiple procedures which must be followed. The first is to notify the local authorities (Police, Ambulance etc.) of the procession and make them fully aware of the route of this procession and the reasoning behind it. This is especially important in regards to political marches.
The act then goes on to note that advanced notice should be given if the procession aims to make the public aware of a campaign, oppose or support the actions of any group, show support of any groups and to mark or commemorate an event.
When giving advanced notice it must be given in writing and within the document contain the date of the procession, the time of the procession, the intended route of the procession and the name and address of the procession organiser.
The notice must be delivered to the police station close to where the procession will take place and at least six days before the procession will take place. However, if the procession is planned at short notice the organiser must hand in the notice by hand before the procession takes place.
If the advanced notice is not handed in as required this is a criminal offence; furthermore, if the date, time and place on the notice is different to that of the procession this is also a criminal offence on the part of the organiser.
While the rights of the organiser and individuals taking part in a procession to differ dependent on the location (e.g. private property) or the reason for the procession and aims of the procession, the rights above are universal unless otherwise stated within the Public Order Act of 1986.
Ashton Hudson, Online Marketing Executive