Photograph by Chris King

News from Siân Berry: Unlawful protest ban order issued against Extinction Rebellion

09 January 2020

Unlawful protest ban order issued against Extinction Rebellion

London’s most senior police chiefs did not know that commanders on the ground planned to issue the unlawful city-wide section 14 that banned all Extinction Rebellion protests, admitted Sir Stephen House, Deputy Police Commissioner to Sian Berry AM today.

When questioned by Sian in the initial aftermath of the ban on 15 October, Sir Stephen told her that: “The person who issued the order, I believe, was Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor. He discussed it with me earlier yesterday [14 October 2019] and I approved the action.” 

However today he said the decision was limited to the command team on the ground and the Gold, Silver and Bronze officers in charge of the operation, and that neither he, nor the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had sign-off.

The Deputy Commissioner was also not able to say how many arrests were carried out under the unlawful order, or how many people were charged following these arrests.

After the High Court ruled the order was unlawful on 6 November, the Crown Prosecution Service swiftly dropped cases against 105 people who had been charged within three weeks of the rulings. 

Although the police could not give an exact figure today, up to 400 people may have been arrested. Many of the protestors were ‘released under investigation’ a technical term that gives the police unlimited time to investigate the case, and today the police could also not answer how many of these people have still not been told if their investigation has been dropped.

Sian Berry says:

It’s deeply worrying that nearly 13 weeks after so many unlawful arrests were made, potentially hundreds of people are still officially under investigation.

The police need to drop these investigations immediately and confirm to me that these peaceful protestors have had their names cleared.

Protest is a human right that should not be interfered with in drastic ways without serious reasons and sign-off at the highest level. When police make a mistake like this and arrest people unlawfully they should put things right straight away.

Notes to editors

Sian is available for interview.

Full video of Sian questioning Sir Stephen at today’s Police and Crime Committee meeting:

Excerpt from Police and Crime Committee, 15 October 2019:
Sian Berry AM: Yes. This is a blanket ban across the whole city. Can I ask at what level this was signed off? Did the Commissioner, the Deputy Mayor or the Mayor know in advance? Did you ask the Home Secretary about imposing what is effectively a ban? Trafalgar Square is Transport for London land. Was this at the Mayor’s request?

Sir Stephen House QPM (Deputy Commissioner, MPS): You would have to ask the Deputy Mayor some of those questions but just to be clear, this is an operational police decision taken by operational police officers. The person who issued the order, I believe, was Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor. He discussed it with me earlier yesterday [14 October 2019] and I approved the action. I discussed it last night with the Commissioner, who was fully behind the action as well. We have been very clear as a command team over the last week that we have to give reasonable time, we have to be reasonable and sensible and continue engaging with Extinction Rebellion, but I have to go back to the issue that it is fine to say, “Yes, Trafalgar Square was OK”, they could go there, but over 100 people were arrested yesterday in Bank. We cannot have a situation where people are encamping in the middle of London and issuing out from there, carrying out unlawful actions and unlawful protests, breaking the law and then going back there at night, having a meeting and deciding where they are going to go again the following day. That simply is not acceptable in a society governed by law. We have to put an end to that. I think that is what we have done, in a reasonable fashion within the law.

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