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Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJA)

Section 60 & 60 A: If an officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes there is a threat of serious violence or that people are carrying offensive weapons, he/she may put a S60 authorisation in place. This means that police can search people randomly for offensive weapons, and remove and/or seize masks, scarves etc. that they believe are being worn to conceal identity. Alternatively, if an officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes that people are going to commit offences, he/she may put a Section 60AA authorisation in place which just allows police to remove and/or seize masks, scarves etc. that they believe are being worn to conceal identity.

Section 68: Aggravated Trespass. This law made it an offence to trespass and disrupt or obstruct a lawful activity, or to intimidate someone so as to deter them from engaging in that activity. This law applies indoors as well as outdoors and so criminalises office occupations. Essentially, S68 criminalises direct action style protests where the objective is to disrupt some sort of activity (e.g. road building), but it only applies if you are trespassing and what you are doing is intended to disrupt something lawful, i.e. merely trespassing is not a criminal offence (unless it interferes with a contractual relationship involving an animal research organisation - see section 1.6), and disrupting something that is illegal (e.g. foxhunting!) is not an offence. They also have to prove it was your intent to disrupt.

Section 69: If the police believe that you have been committing, are committing, or are about to commit aggravated trespass, they can direct you to leave that land and not return within 3 months. But you have to be on “land” before the police can use this power, i.e. they can’t give this warning on a road, and the only direction they can give is to leave the land.

Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (CJPA)

Section 42 gives the police the power to direct people to leave (either immediately or after a period of time) if they are demonstrating near someone’s house, and their presence is likely to cause alarm, harassment or distress to the resident of the house. The police may also allow people to stay near the house, subject to any conditions the police think fit, including conditions as to where people may stand and how many people may stay. It is an offence not to comply with a direction or condition. This was introduced to deal with home demos. However, it was not effective enough because you only break the law if the police turn up and you don’t do what they say, so Section 42A was added later.

Section 42A makes it an offence to demonstrate near someone’s house if you intend to cause, or you know that you are likely to cause, alarm, harassment or distress to someone in the house (i.e. you commit the offence without the police even turning up).  It is a misconception that section 42A makes all home demos illegal. It only makes home demos illegal if the intention is to, or if you know you are likely to, cause alarm, harassment or distress to the resident of a dwelling. So in principle a very fluffy and peaceful home demo (one that is not likely to cause anyone alarm, harassment or distress) is not only still legal, but also cannot be made subject to conditions. Sections 42 and 42A are particularly important where people live in or next to businesses that are the target of protests, such as some farms breeding animals for vivisection.  If these sections are used by police, you should argue that your peaceful demo is unlikely to cause alarm, harassment or distress to the resident of any dwelling. Be aware that these sections are worded in such a way that in principle they apply to a demo near any house - whether or not the protest is directed at the resident of the house!  These sections have for instance been used to arrest people demonstrating outside laboratories because those laboratories happened to be near houses.  However, such cases have not ended up in convictions, and complaints against police for using these sections in this way have been upheld.

Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA)

Section 1 makes it illegal to pursue a course of conduct (i.e. something done on at least 2 occasions) that amounts to harassment of a person.  The PHA was theoretically intended to prevent stalking, but is mostly used against peaceful protestors. Section 1A was added to make it more applicable to protests by making it possible to “harass” a group of people (i.e. a company) even though any one person in that company may only see you or hear from you once, i.e. the police may say you are “harassing” a company by repeatedly protesting against it or writing to it.  However, peaceful protest and polite communication cannot amount to harassment and are a guaranteed human right (see 1.10 below).

Sections 3 and 3A allow companies to gain injunctions against protestors to prevent actual or anticipated “harassment”. These apply to named individuals on the injunction, but also to anyone who is served with it (e.g. if you are on a demo and a security guard thrusts a piece of paper in your face, you have been ‘served’ with an injunction). Injunctions usually include things like exclusion zones and restrictions on when, where and how many people can protest. No one has yet been successfully prosecuted for breaching an injunction of this kind.  Remember, peaceful protest (as long as it’s outside any exclusion zone and is not directed towards someone protected by the injunction) cannot breach an injunction and is a guaranteed right.

Highways Act 1980

Section 137 prevents you from ‘wilfully obstructing the free passage along a highway without lawful authority or excuse’. Lawful authority means some sort of permit for the obstruction from the council.  Lawful excuse means that the obstruction is making reasonable use of the highway. Reasonableness is determined by all the relevant factors including the size, location, duration and purpose of the obstruction, and whether the obstruction causes an actual rather than a potential inconvenience to users of the highway. Exercising one’s human rights (for example, by holding an information stall or demonstration) is not a trump card that can be used to circumvent legislation such as this, but it is a relevant factor in determining the reasonableness of your use of the highway. Therefore, if you are holding an information stall in a sensible place where it will not get in anyone’s way in a wide street or pavement and it is not too big, you are almost certainly making reasonable use of the highway and you have a lawful excuse for the obstruction. You therefore do not need a permit from the council, and your chances of being convicted of obstruction of the highway for such a stall are negligible. It would be best to resist any instructions from the police or council to move or pack up; any arrest for obstruction of the highway for holding such a stall would almost certainly be unlawful. You also do not need public liability insurance for holding a street stall any more than you need insurance to walk down the street or wait for a bus.

Section 132 says you are not allowed to ‘affix’ any sign to a structure on or in the highway (such as a lamppost, signpost etc).  However, to our knowledge, this is never actually used.

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA)

Largely indecipherable and a complete affront to our civil liberties, what we think it means is this:

Section 145: you are not allowed to do or threaten to do a criminal act, or a ‘tortious act’ (i.e., a civil offence), that is likely to have the effect of interfering with a contract between any two companies or people with the intention of harming an animal research organisation. This section makes activities that are normally civil offences, such as trespass, libel, defamation and nuisance, into criminal activities, if carried out as part of a campaign against vivisectors. It also makes minor criminal offences into more serious offences, if carried out as part of a campaign against vivisectors. Section 145 includes a clause that means that organising boycotts of companies involved in animal testing is not an offence.

Section 146: you cannot threaten to do a criminal act or a ‘tortious act’ against anyone involved with an animal research organisation with the intention of persuading them to do or not to do something.

Remember, these laws apply only to protests against animal researchers (although the police sometimes try and use them against other protests), and you have to do or threaten to do either something that is illegal anyway, or a ‘tortious act’, in order to commit these offences.  It is still legal to make polite communications to vivisectors, their customers and suppliers to register your disapproval, and to demonstrate against vivisectors, their customers and suppliers as long as your demo doesn’t constitute a criminal or ‘tortious act’.   We understand tortious acts to be civil wrongs that are actionable on the grounds that they cause some loss.  This act also makes it an offence to demonstrate within 1km of parliament without prior permission from the police. We think it is still legal to breathe.

Breach of the Peace

A Breach of the Peace is violence or the threat of violence. It is , as some police would like to think, the making of , such as blowing a whistle or using a drum or megaphone (depending of course on what is said). However, you do not have to be violent or threatening violence yourself to be arrested under the common law of breach of the peace: if the natural consequence of your actions is to provoke others to violence, and the police reasonably apprehend an imminent Breach of the Peace, they can arrest you to prevent it. You should not be arrested to prevent a Breach of the Peace for merely making a noise or slightly annoying, offending or upsetting someone; your actions must be those to which a violent response is both likely and imminent.

It is possible for someone lawfully arrested to prevent a breach of the peace to be taken to a magistrates’ court and bound over to be of good behaviour. This involves accepting a binding order, with which any failure to comply can result in imprisonment. However, being bound over is rare. If someone is arrested to prevent a Breach of the Peace, they are usually held until the threat of a Breach of the Peace has subsided and are then released. It is possible for the police to take action to prevent a Breach of the Peace short of arresting someone, for example making directions to leave somewhere or not to go somewhere, but the circumstances under which they can make such directions are exactly the same as for arresting someone. If you fail to comply with such a direction you may be arrested for obstructing a police officer. In taking action to prevent a Breach of the Peace, the police must arrest (or give a direction to) the person or people who are provoking it, not as they sometimes like to, arrest (or give a direction to) the smallest party involved.

Because you will not be charged with an offence if you are arrested to prevent a breach of the peace, you do not have to give your details. Scottish law is different, however; breach of the peace is an offence with which you may be charged in Scotland.


Trespass is a civil offence – you cannot be arrested for trespass (NB. but see section 1.6). Landowners, or agents of the landowner, can use reasonable force to remove trespassers, and police can assist in this if asked to do so by the landowner or agent. If you resist the police when they remove you, you may be arrested for obstructing a police officer. Quite often, people are arrested to prevent a breach of the peace simply for refusing to leave land, the police saying that they are provoking the landowner to use violence against them.

Street Collections

It is illegal to hold a street collection without a permit from the local authority.  A “street collection” is not explicitly defined, but it involves both inviting and accepting donations.  So it is not illegal to accept money if people offer you it, as long as you don’t invite it. Inviting donations could mean having a collection tin, and if the police are being mean, having a donations column on a petition. In a trial in 2010, some activists were charged will holding a street collection without a permit because they had a stall with a collecting tin on it in which people had put money. These activists successfully argued in a magistrates’ court that they were not holding a street collection because they were not inviting donations; the tin was there to facilitate people spontaneously donating money, which they often wanted to do, and no-one was holding the tin or asking people to put money in it. However, it would probably be risky to rely on a similar ruling being made again.

The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)

Finally, this one’s on our side. Article 10 protects freedom of expression, and Article 11 protects freedom of assembly. All laws should be interpreted in conjunction with this act so as to be compatible with our human rights. In reality the HRA holds very little weight in the courts, although it has proved useful in relation to determining that stalls and protests are a reasonable use of a highway. The HRA is not a ‘trump card’ that protects you against the use of legislation against protests; articles 10 and 11 are qualified rights, which means that these rights can be interfered with in the interests of maintaining public safety and preventing crime and disorder. However, any interference with our human rights must be prescribed by law and must be both necessary and proportionate to the desired aim.

Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (CJPA) Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA) Highways Act 1980 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) Breach of the Peace Trespass Street Collections The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)

Public Order Act 1986 (POA)

Sections 4A and 5 prevent you from being ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ and thereby causing ‘alarm, harassment and distress’, either by your behaviour, words or any signs you are displaying. For S5, it is only necessary for your behaviour to be ‘likely’ to alarm, harass or distress someone. S4A is slightly more serious, and they have to find someone who has actually been alarmed, harassed or distressed. The police commonly try to stop demonstrations and stalls by claiming that placards depicting animal abuse are “offensive” or “distressing” and therefore constitute a S4A or S5 offence. However, the important thing to remember here is that these offences are committed only if you are threatening, abusive or insulting. It is not against the law for you to show pictures that are distressing, and case law has determined that our freedom of expression includes the right to shock, offend or disturb. If the police tell you that your placards are illegal because they are graphic, and therefore are offensive or distressing, they are talking nonsense and you should tell them this.

Sections 12 and 14 can be used where there is a threat of serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the community, or where the intention is to intimidate people. This enables the police to impose conditions on processions (S12) and assemblies (S14 – an assembly meaning a gathering of 2 or more people) that are necessary to prevent the above. The important points are that the police must believe there is a threat of serious disorder, disruption, etc., or that you intend to intimidate, and this belief must be reasonable, i.e. it must be based on objective facts. For example, a few people with placards holding a peaceful demo does not constitute a reasonable belief of the above. Also, they can only impose conditions as to the place(s) you can stand or march to, the duration of the assembly or procession, and the maximum number of people that can take part; they cannot impose any other conditions. If you attend a march, police officers may try to give you pieces of paper with details of S12 conditions.

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Laws Used Against Protestors
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