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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 12:49 GMT
Pair lose protest damages claim
Lois Austin
Lois Austin said she was not allowed to leave to pick up her child
Two people have lost a High Court damages claim against the Metropolitan Police after being detained for several hours during May Day protests.

Geoffrey Saxby, from Hastings, East Sussex, and Lois Austin, of Southwark, south London, claimed the tactics in 2001 breached the Human Rights Act.

They were among people corralled in London's Oxford Circus without food, drink or access to toilets.

The Met said the action stopped serious injury to the public and the officers.

Mr Saxby and Ms Austin, who had claimed damages alleging false imprisonment, have been given permission to appeal against the court decision.

We are worried that protesters are being criminalised for going on the streets and making their protests heard against war and world poverty
Lois Austin
Ms Austin said: "It is a disappointing judgement in terms of the right to protest in this country.

"We are worried that protesters are being criminalised for going on the streets and making their protests heard against war and world poverty."

The court heard how Ms Austin, 35, had to get a friend to collect her 11-month-old daughter from a crèche because she was not allowed to leave to pick up her up.

Mr Saxby said he had told police he was not involved in the protest but had got caught up in the chaos while collecting money from a bank on behalf of his employer.

Widespread criminal damage

The Met's Assistant Commissioner Steve House said after the case: "The Met believes that if we had not taken this course of action on 1 May 2001 we would have run the very real risk of serious injury to the public and ourselves, plus looting and widespread criminal damage."

Mr Justice Tugendhat agreed with the Met was "duty bound" to impose an absolute cordon to prevent violence and the risk of injury to persons and property.

He added: "The organisers' literature could reasonably be understood as incitement to looting and violence and it was hard to understand it in any other way."

Mr Justice Tugendhat pointed out that the case was about the right to liberty and public order "and not about freedom of speech or freedom of assembly".

He added that if water and toilets had been provided, "they would have been used as weapons against the police by a minority of the crowd".

But Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "Today's judgment should alarm anyone who believes in the right to protest or that people should not be detained en masse like cattle."




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