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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 11:11 GMT
Parliament protesters lose appeal
Milan Rai
Milan Rai faces jail for refusing to pay his fine
Peace activists have lost their appeal against a decision to prosecute them for demonstrating near the Houses of Parliament without police permission.

Four protesters were arrested under the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act last year.

The law prohibits demonstrations within 1km of Parliament unless prior authorisation has been obtained.

The High Court ruled it was now accepted that the new legislation was compatible with the human rights act.

Maya Anne Evans, 25, and Milan Rai, 40, both from Hastings, East Sussex, were arrested after reading out the names of military and civilian victims of the Iraq war at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Picnic protest

Rai was fined and is now facing jail for refusing to pay a penalty of 500 including costs.

Backed by human rights group Liberty, their lawyers said both behaved politely and peacefully throughout their demonstration in October last year.

Peter Thornton QC, appearing for both, argued the case brought against them at Bow Street Magistrates' Court, in central London, was not justified and was "disproportionate".

Stephen Blum, 54, and Aqil Shaer, 41, who took part in a "picnic" on the grass of Parliament Square on 1 August last year - the day the new law came into force - also lost their appeals.

Maya Evans was convicted for breaching the Parliament protest ban
Maya Evans was one of the four prosecuted

Shaer was given a 100 fine and Blum was handed a 12 month conditional discharge.

Lord Justice Waller said lawyers for the four had made the "important concession" that the 2005 Act was compatible with Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect freedom of expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

He added the point now being argued was the decisions of the police to arrest the four, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to prosecute them and the courts to convict them interfered disproportionately with those important convention rights and was "unnecessary and heavy-handed".

Rejecting the appeals, Lord Justice Waller said it "simply cannot be a legitimate line of argument" to say the authorities had to look at "the activity taking place without authorisation" before deciding whether to prosecute and convict.

The judge also said the case did not give rise to any point of general public importance and refused to give leave to appeal to the House of Lords.




SEE ALSO
Activist fined for illegal demo
12 Apr 06 |  London
Iraq protest in 'demo ban zone'
28 Dec 05 |  London
Westminster protests to be banned
03 Nov 04 |  UK Politics

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