Five so-called “lords” in Britain’s supreme court have ruled that the police may hold a citizen in preventative detention for as long as 5 ½ hours in order to prevent the exercise of free speech if that free speech might anger someone of a different opinion.
The case arose from the arrests of a number of citizens in London and other places at the time of the wedding of a member of the Windsor clan in 2011. They had intended to protest against the feudal institution but were locked-up by the police until the wedding was over. No charges were made against them and no evidence of wrong-doing was produced.
Early in its judgement the supreme court justices set the tone by referring to incidents of “violent disruption” and a threat of “international terrorism” that “was assessed as severe”. However, no evidence has been produced that those arrested intended violence or that their protests would have helped “international terrorism”.
The judgement claims that Metropolitan Police plans for the monarchist day of celebration called for “balancing the needs and rights of protestors with those impacted by the protest”. But it fails to explain how the arrest of citizens before they had protested could be consistent with a right of free speech.
It is notable that nowhere does the judgement refer to the right of free speech.
The police claimed that the arrests were made to “prevent an imminent breach of the peace”. And the supreme court judgement notes that “the essence of a breach of the peace is violence”.
But no evidence has been presented that those arrested planned violence. It can only be, therefore, that the police feared monarchist violence in response to the expression of republican beliefs. But in that case it should have been the monarchists who were arrested, if we are to have free speech in this country.
The lordly justices quote approvingly an appeal court finding that “there is room, even in the case of fundamental rights as to whose application no restriction or limitation is permitted . . for a pragmatic approach”. And such a pragmatic approach,it seems, allows for deprivation of liberty if the police think it necessary to protect public order, without evidence, charger or trial.
The supreme court was considering only whether the right to liberty under article 5 of the European Convention on Human had been violated. And in particular the right to be brought before a judge or magistrate following arrest. None of the protestors were taken to court.
The court found in effect that the police may arrest a citizen for a limited period although they have no intention of bringing that person before a court to state their case. The court of appeal that had previously considered the case had found that the police had in fact arrested the protestors for the purpose of bringing them before a court but had not done so. But that was alright because they would have done so if they had wanted to keep the protestors locked up for longer!
Unfortunately for the monarchists and their apologists, whatever the justices have ruled, the cat had been let out of the bag by the Metropolitan Police before the wedding day, revealing the pro-monarchy bias of the police. Commander Christine Jones told the news media that she wanted to make it clear that the monarchist celebration was to be one of “joy”.
Apparently no other feelings were allowable as far as the police were concerned. And on the wedding day the police enforced that with the preventative arrests.
In short, if there is a chance that republican protest might upset monarchists the republican can be arrested in order to keep the monarchists happy. All that is necessary, in the words of the supreme court, is that this is believed by the police to be “reasonably necessary for the purpose of preventing imminent violence”. A blank cheque for monarchist police.
The judges confirmed that protection of feudal privilege still takes precedence over human rights. And the police are free to put the “joy” of monarchists before the free speech of republicans.
For more on pro-monarchy police bias read our report on Commander Jones’ instruction to republicans to be joyful.