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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK
Anti-social law 'misused' at demo
The Wine Republic, attached to the Birmingham Rep
The theatre closed the play for health and safety reasons
Judges have reserved their ruling in an appeal into the use of anti-social behaviour laws to break up a protest by Sikhs over a play.

Pritpal Singh, from Coventry, was arrested after failing to leave the demonstration over the play Behzti, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, in 2004.

His lawyer said the case raised vital points about lawful protests.

The play depicted acts of rape and violence in a Sikh temple. No date was set for a decision.

The author, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, was forced into hiding after receiving death threats.

Arrested and cautioned

The theatre - which refused to censor the work - eventually cancelled its run based on health and safety grounds.

Mr Singh's case centres on a peaceful protest on 16 December 2004 where demonstrators claimed the play portrayed the Sikh faith negatively.

Nothing came close to violence
Monica Carss-Frisk QC

At a later protest on 18 December three police officers were hurt during clashes when 400 demonstrators gathered. Mr Singh did not attend the violent protest.

Monica Carss-Frisk QC, representing Mr Singh, said the intentions of her client and others with him at the earlier protest were "entirely peaceful".

Mr Singh was cautioned after being arrested for failing to leave the scene.

The only violence was when one protester kicked a plastic bin and another set off a fire extinguisher, the court was told.

"Nothing came close to violence," she said.

Miss Carss-Frisk said the section of the Anti Social Behaviour Act used by the police to disperse protesters did not apply to lawful protest.

It had been invoked by the police and authorised solely for dealing with "seasonal revellers" and could not be lawfully used for other purposes, she added.

High Court judges in November last year backed the police over the demonstration and refused to allow a judicial review of their decision to use the Act to disperse Sikh protesters during a matinee performance.

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