What are the new rules and regulations regarding Demonstrations and Protests in the vicinity of Parliament Square ? - FOIA request to the Home Office

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The Home Office has so far been quite Sir Humphrey Appleby like in their reponses to our Freedom of Information Act requests. This is not in the spirit of open government which the Department for Constitutional Affairs has been claiming.

Nevertheless, we are giving the Home Office another chance to live up to its mission statement with a FOIA request which might just concentrate their minds on the dubious legislation slipped through as a portmanteau Bill setting up the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but which also places potentially massive restrictions on any peaceful democratic protest around the Houses of Parliament in London, and a sizeable area around it, up to "one kilometre from the nearest point in Parliament Square".

This could encompass Buckingham Palace to the West, Waterloo Station on the other side of the River Thames to the East, Whitehall, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square etc. to the North and the National Gallery and the headquarters of the main political parties to the South.

Although charged with enforcing the law, the Metropolitan Police Service is as much in the dark as the rest of us, as the Home Office has not published any guidance, or attempted to consult the public about these new powers.

The only possible reason for not disclosing the information set out below, would be that the Home Office are just about to publish the extent of the Designated Area, something which they must have had in mind when the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act was rubberstamped back on April 7th.

What have they been dithering about ?

"Freedom of Information Act Request,
Direct Communications Unit,
The Home Office,
2 Marsham Street,
London,
SW1P 4DF

Thursday 2nd June 2005

Copy sent by email to: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Formal Request for Information

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please provide me with the following information:

I am enquiring about the Guidance, Procedures and Regulations covering Protests or demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament Square, in light of the new

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005: Part 4 PUBLIC ORDER AND CONDUCT IN PUBLIC PLACES ETC.

Demonstrations in vicinity of Parliament

132 Demonstrating without authorisation in designated area
http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#132

133 Notice of demonstrations in designated area
http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#133

134 Authorisation of demonstrations in designated area
http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#134

135 Supplementary directions
http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#135

136 Offences under sections 132 to 135: penalties
http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#136

137 Loudspeakers in designated area
http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#137

138 The designated area
http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#138

I have already contacted the Metropolitan Police Service, but they claim to have no idea about the extent of the Designated Area or when these powers will be brought into force by Order.

I have a few questions ! :

1) When will the Home Office publish guidelines on the www.home-office.gov.uk website or the Metropolitan Police Service website www.met.police.uk regarding the rules, regulations and procedures concerning Demonstrations or Protests in the vicinity of Parliament ?

2) When will the Order setting up the Designated Area be published ?

3) What Public Consultation Procedure, if any, does the Home Office plan to conduct before publishing this Order ?

4) Where is there a map available, or a detailed description of the extent of the "Designated Area" ?

5) Does the "one kilometre from the nearest point in Parliament Square" refer to just the central part surrounded by roads and pavements, or does it refer to the property boundaries of all the buildings with addresses in Parliament Square e.g. The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey etc. which would potentially increase the maximum extent of the Designated Area considerably.

6) Does the "Designated Area" extend Underground to people traveling on the Jubilee Line Tube, or the other Tube and railway lines within "one kilometre from the nearest point in Parliament Square" e.g. the whole of Waterloo Station ?

7) Does the "Designated Area" also include the Airspace above Parliament Square already regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority under the Air Navigation Order 2000, especially regarding helium balloons, kites, model aircraft, lasers, searchlights, cinematic projectors etc. as used in demonstrations or protests ?

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2000/20001562.htm

8) What is the minimum duration of a protest or demonstration before it falls under the new regulations ?

9) Will a short walk in and around the Parliament Square "Designated Area" entail getting prior permission from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police if you happen to be wearing a "political slogan" T-shirt or badge ?

10) What is the exact procedure for writing to the "Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis" ? Is leaving a written notice at any of the Police Stations in London really the only way of notifying the authorities of a forthcoming protest or demonstration ?

11) Will the "Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis" accept digital electronic signatures to authenticate any email correspondence ? e.g. as permitted under the

Electronic Communications Act 2000
section 7 Electronic signatures and related certificates

http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000007.htm#7

12) To whom should any such communications be addressed ?

a) To the Metropolitan Police general enquiries contacts ?

b) To the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Ian Blair ?

c) Should a copy also be sent to the Palace of Westminster
Division (SO17). If so, what are the contact details for ?

d) Should a copy be sent to the Public Order OCU ? If so, what are
their contact details ?

13) What is the position regarding a "fuel protest" type convoy of vehicles beeping their horns, rather than using loudspeakers ?

14) Does a separate notification of a demonstration or protest have to
be submitted for each and every day, or part of a day that it lasts ?

15) What is the difference between the "at least 6 days" and the "at
least 24 hours" notification periods ?

16) What are the procedures for notification of the amendment or
cancellation of a protest or demonstration ?

Please provide the information ideally by publishing it on your public world wide website, or alternatively by email.

In the unlikely event that this information is not already available in a standard electronic format, then please explain the reasons why, when you provide the information in another format.

If you are proposing to make a charge for providing the information requested, please provide full details in advance, together with an explanation of any proposed charge

If you decide to withhold any of the information requested you should clearly explain why you have done so in your response, by reference to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 legislation.

If your decision to withhold is based upon an evaluation of the public interest, then you should clearly explain which public interests you have considered, and why you have decided that the public interest in maintaining the exception(s) outweighs the public interest in releasing the information.

I look forward to receiving the information requested as soon as possible and in any event within 20 working days of receipt. i.e. by Friday 1st July 2005

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

If you require any clarification of this request please contact me as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

[name]
[address]"

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2 Comments

question
how do you go aboiut orgoniseing a demmomstration for a 1000. people

local demomstration do you have to notisfy the police . what do you need to do.
where can you find this info

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This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

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