Managing Protest consultation response

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Here is our short response to the Home Office's Managing Protest around Parliament public consultation which closes this Thursday 17th January 2008:

  • 1) Repeal SOCPA 2005 sections 132 to 138
  • 2) No "harmonisation" with the Public Order Act 1986
  • 3) Sessional Orders must be reformed for the 21st Century
Some possible face saving options and minor amendments:
  • Option 1: Vastly reduce the size of the Section 138 Designated Area
  • Option 2: Remove the inclusion of indoor "Public Places
  • Option 3: Clarify the ambiguous extent of the Section 138 Designated Area boundary
  • Option 4: Amend Section 132 to include a clear definition of the word "demonstration"
  • Option 5: Modify the SOCPA 2005 Section 128 Protected Site Designations
  • Option 6: Remove the Security Service MI5 Thames House "steps" anomaly

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary says in her forward to the consultation document:

"We are clear that there should be no unnecessary restrictions on people's right to protest. This is particularly important in the vicinity of Parliament given that it the forum of our democracy - the seat of our elected representatives. Therefore it is right that we review provisions that have generated such concern. If left unchecked, such concerns can in turn contribute to a wider cynicism towards the political process."

This cynicism is already in evidence, and is turning to a mixture if contempt, fear and hatred of this Labour government, by otherwise law abiding, peaceful people.

1) Repeal SOCPA 2005 sections 132 to 138

Demonstrations in vicinity of Parliament

132. Demonstrating without authorisation in designated area
133. Notice of demonstrations in designated area
134. Authorisation of demonstrations in designated area
135. Supplementary directions
136. Offences under sections 132 to 135: penalties
137. Loudspeakers in designated area
138. The designated area

These sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 should be repealed forthwith.

2) No "harmonisation" with the Public Order Act 1986

It is bad enough having our freedoms and liberties curtailed around Parliament Square and Whitehall etc.

"Harmonisation" implies extending SOCPA style restrictions such as the imposition of arbitrary Conditions and the requirement for Prior Notification and Prior Permission, to cover the rest of England and Wales as well.

This is totally unacceptable

3) Sessional Orders must be reformed for the 21st Century

The Sessional Orders, which Parliament votes in at the start of each Session of Parliament, are intended to prevent undemocratic intimidation and vote rigging, by crowds of people intent on preventing some or all Members of Parliament or Peers, from physically getting into (or out of) Parliamentary Estate buildings.

However, the modern Parliament buildings are far more accessible than they used to be in the 19th Century, especially with the construction of underground car parks and tunnels between buildings, and to the Westminster Underground Tube Station, the invention of the helicopter and with the use of modern telecommunications technology.

There can be no excuse for Sessional Orders being threaten to, or to actually prevent, marches or demonstrations which do not impinge directly on physical access to the Parliamentary buildings.

Sessional Orders have recently threatened a Peace protest march in Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, and also seem to be threatening the forthcoming march by law abiding Police Officers, in their pay dispute with the Home Secretary.

Any amendments to Public Demonstration laws should restrict the application of Sessional Orders to the narrow physical confines surrounding the Parliamentary Estate buildings and no further.

Neither the large and somewhat violent anti-hunting-ban demonstrations in September 2004 in Parliament Square Gardens, nor the more recent October 2006 "Sack Parliament" anarchy, managed to disrupt the access of MPs or Peers or the workings of Parliament.

The Sessional Orders should be updated to protect Parliament from electronic telecommunications disruption as well as from obstruction by physical crowds or mobs of people.

This does not require giving the Metropolitan Police Service even more legal powers,but does mean paying money for the appropriate technical and trained personnel resources.

These three points above are what should be done immediately following this Public Consultation.

However, since it seems that perhaps the Politicians and Civil Servants responsible for this legislative mess are trying to find some face saving compromises, then here are some other options which are needed if the current legislation is not actually repealed:

Option 1: Vastly reduce the size of the Section 138 Designated Area

There is absolutely no justification for the maximum extent of the Designated Area

"1 kilometre in a straight line from the nearest point in Parliament Square"

If, as stated, the intention of the legislation is in regard to Parliament, then there is no excuse whatsoever for extending the Designated Area across onto the opposite bank of the River Thames, around the Millennium Wheel and Lambeth Palace, and potentially including Waterloo railway station. It is absurd to claim that any demonstration in these locations could somehow impede access to Parliament etc.

If Section 138 is not repealed, then the Designated Area should be reduced in size to cover just the pavement and highway immediately outside and across the road from the entrances and exits to Parliamentary Estate buildings.

i.e. Bridge Street, Parliament Street, Old Palace Yard, Abingdon Street, Victoria Embankment (but only along the side of Portcullis House and the Norman Shaw Buildings)

Option 2: Remove the inclusion of indoor "Public Places"

SOCPA 2005 Section 133

"b) “public place” means any highway or any place to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission,"

Since this currently covers the interiors of many buildings such as public houses, restaurants, theatres, churches and other places of religious worship.

It also covers the Public Areas of Parliament such as Central Lobby or the Committee Rooms in the Palace of Westminster or in Portcullis House

This definition is far too broad, and far too difficult to Police. The Designated Area should only include pavements and roadways and should not include the interiors of buildings which happen to be within the Designated Area.

Option 3: Clarify the ambiguous extent of the Section 138 Designated Area boundary

Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005

The precise extent of the Designated Area is not clear:

The Order says for example, "over Lambeth Bridge, leftwards along Millbank as far as Thorney Street"

The current wording seems to apply to the entire "adjoining pavement" in the "named street" of Millbank, over its entire length, even the part of the street heading away from Parliament Square.

This seems to include the Millbank pavement but not the roadway in front of the National Gallery, since that is "no more than one kilometre in a straight line from the point nearest to it in Parliament Square", but that does not appear on any of the Metropolitan Police Service maps of the Designated Area, which are not legally binding, but the words of the Statutory Instrument are.

Such unnecessary ambiguity and vagueness cannot be tolerated.

The exact extent of the Designated Area must be precisely defined, with an official detailed map published as part of the Order, and made available widely on UK Government and Police public world wide websites.

Option 4: Amend Section 132 to include a clear definition of the word "demonstration"

There has been a definite "chilling effect" regarding the wearing of British Legion Poppies, political rubber wristbands, lapel badges and tshirts with slogans of any sort, within the Designated Area.

How can anyone be clear whether they are risking arrest for an "unauthorised demonstration" in the "opinion of a police constable" or not ?

Is taking a walk, on your on or with a small group, stopping off to take photographs of the prominent tourist sights, along the wide pavements within the Designated Area counted as a march or a procession (even though it is not obstructing traffic on the roadway) or is it an almost static demonstration ?

How long do you have to be standing or sititng still within the Designated Area, before it counts as a "static demonstration" ?

This ambiguity gives rise to a feeling of oppression and resentment, which breeds hatred towards the Government.

Option 5: Modify the SOCPA 2005 Section 128 Protected Site Designations

Trespass on designated site

128. Offence of trespassing on designated site
129. Corresponding Scottish offence
130. Designated sites: powers of arrest
131. Designated sites: access

Statutory Instrument 2007 No. 930 - The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Sites under Section 128) Order 2007

This Order was used to Designate, as Protected Sites under SOCPA 2005 Section 128 (as amended by the Terrorism Act 2006 which, for no good reason simply changed the name from "Designated Site" to "Protected Site").

This is Designation is far too broad in its physical extent regarding

a) Windsor Castle:

Home Park - this is a huge area of 655 acres - with many public sports events etc.

The public tourist areas of Windsor Castle grounds and state apartments and St. George's Chapel

b) The formerly Public Areas of the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House, specifically the Central Lobby, the Public Galleries and the Committee Rooms and Corridors should be excluded from the Section 128 Protected Site boundaries.

There are already such exclusions for the commercial premises within the Portcullis House and Norman Lamb buildings blocks.

You should not be under threat of arbitrary arrest by a police constable, which nowadays is itself a punishment and intrusion on privacy, even if you are never charged or are found not guilty (your DNA samples, fingerprints etc. are recorded and kept on centralised databases until your 100th birthday or longer) , simply for having crossed the Protected Site boundary when attending or visiting such public areas.

Option 6: Remove the Security Service MI5 Thames House "steps" anomaly

There is a legal anomaly regarding the headquarters of the Security Service MI5 at Thames House at 11 to 12 Millbank.

The Millbank pavement and roadway is covered by the SOCPA 2005 Section 132 Designated Area

"over Lambeth Bridge, leftwards along Millbank as far as Thorney Street"

However the SOCPA 2005 Section 128 Protected Site designation excludes the steps:

"(f) Thames House, 11 and 12 Millbank, London, SW1P 4QE but the site does not include the steps that give access to the inside of the building; and "

These steps are not part of the public street pavement of Millbank, and are not a "public place" according to SOCPA 2005 Section 132 i.e
"any place to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission"

This makes the front entrance archway steps, into some sort of legal Temporary Autonomous Zone, between legal jurisdictions, regarding criminal offences, rather than civil trespass.

It is surprising that some sort of encampment has not sprung up in the shelter of these archway steps.

N.B. apart from the front steps on Millbank, there is another set of steps at the rear of the building, on Thorney Street, near the loading bay, which also give access to / fire escape exit from, the first floor or piano nobile interior.

Surely these "steps" should be specifically included, rather than being excluded from the Section 128 designation ?

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Campaign Button Links

NO2ID  Campaign
NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

link to

People in Common - weekly Picnics etc. in Parliament Square, every Sunday at about 1pm.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Please help us to find this man! He was arrested(?) in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005

This man was one of the very first people arrested in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005, but he has apparently disappeared.

link to
Silent Protest - a web photo gallery "encouraging people to stage a virtual, government un-sanctioned protest. All you need to do is get a picture of yourself, or your friends, within the protest free zone. Assume the pose (hand over mouth), aim and click."

. - useful background briefings for the Managing Protest around Parliament public consultation, and model letters to MPs etc.

About this blog

This web blog has been set up as an information resource and discussion area (please be polite in the comments) to help organise resistance to the restrictions on peaceful democratic demonstrations and protests, which have been enacted by law, in a wide Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

It appears that in order to remove the peace protester Brian Haw, who has now been demonstrating continuously in Parliament Square, day and night, for over 5 6 years, the NuLabour Government have overreacted, and have granted themselves draconian and arbitrary powers, which affect the rights of all individual British citizens to lobby their Members of Parliament, or to walk in a vast Designated Area wearing a "political slogan" T-shirt, badge, rubber wristband etc. without first seeking prior written permission from the Police.

This is an affront to democracy and is not justified even on any spurious "climate of fear" alleged "security" grounds.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your news, views or suggestions about this blog, and about the issues it highlights.

info @ParliamentProtest [dot] org [dot].uk

For those of you who want to send us information in confidence, here is our PGP Public Encryption Key

A low volume e-mail list (with a daily digest option) has been set up for those of you who /want to share ideas about how the restrictions on demonstrations without prior written permission etc. can be resisted legally and peacefully:


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Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was rushed through, "on the nod", with minimal debate, during the undemocratic "wash up" process at the end of the last Parliament when the General Election had been called.

The bulk of the Act deals with the setting up of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but there are also sections such as:

Section 110 Powers of Arrest

From 1st January 2006 this section makes any offence, no matter how minor, into an arrestable offence. Arrests by the police these days can mean taking 10 fingerprints and two palm prints, a DNA tissue sample and processing it into a digital "DNA fingerprint", forcing you to remove any facial coverings, (even those worn for religous purposes) to take photographs of your face etc. All of these items of personal data can then be retained forever, even if you are not charged, or any charges against you are dropped, or if you go to court and are found not guilty.

These new powers are regulated by the new statutory Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice G (.pdf)

Section 128 Trespass on a Designated Site - e.g. Crown Property or National Security

Sections 132 to 138 Demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament - the controversial restrictions in detail.

The Public Whip website has details of how the Members of the House of Commons voted on these controversial clauses.

Designated Area

The current Designated Area is set out in: Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005

Read more about the Designated Area in our category archive.

Write to politicians

Write To Them - identify and contact your local councillors, Members of Parliament, devolved Assembly members and Members of the European Parliament

You can also write to the Home Secretary David Blunkett Charles Clarke John Reid Jacqui Smith

You can send an email public.enquiries@ or a letter to:

Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith MP
Home Secretary
c/o Direct Communications Unit
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Home Office Contact Us page

Mass Lone Demonstrations

Comedian Mark Thomas's website has details of Mass Lone Demonstrations which legally show up the absurdity of this law, and the bureaucracy involved in enforcing it. These multiple independent one person demonstrations take place on the third Wednesday of the month, from 5pm - 7.30pm within the Designated Area (often in Parliament Square, but not exclusively so)

Meet on the second Wednesday of each month outside Charing Cross police station (located at Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP - see the map) any time between: 5.30 pm -7.30pm to hand in your Metropolitan Police SOCPA forms (download the optional Word or PDF forms from the Metroplitan Police) or your own personal Written Applications for Prior Permission.

Regular Protests in Parliament Square

Parliament Square - supporting the long running, 24/7, peace protest by Brian Haw in Parliament Square

Global Women's Strike who held "open mike" loudspeaker protests every Wednesday for over two and a half years, which are now banned.

London Critical Mass - group bicycle ride on the last Friday of every month, for the last 10 years, which often strays into the Designated Area.

The People's Commons Meeting / Tea Party / Picnic-Protest is now meeting every Sunday afternoon starting at 1 for 1.30pm on the Green in Parliament Square. wiki - new website

Website Links

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management, systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006.

Metropolitan Police Service

Metropolitan Police Authority - meant democratically to supervise the Metropolitan Police Service

Independent Police Complaints Commission

United Kingdom Parliament - Palace of Westminster, House of Lords, House of Commons etc.

Booking Parliament Square - Greater London Authority booking forms, terms and conditions for filming and photography for Parliament Square - "The GLA does not grant permission for demonstration, rallies and public meetings on Parliament Square Gardens".

They Work For You - a more user friendly version of the House of Commons Hansard

Pledgebank pledge:

"I will form part of a human chain around the Westminster no protest zone but only if 6,000 other people will join in."

Repeal-SOCPA-Info has useful briefing material for the Public Consultation into the laws restricting demonstrations, marches and assemblies, sample letters to MPs etc..

Blog Links

Spy Blog - Privacy and Security and Civil liberties campaigning

Mayor of London Blog - unnofficial comments on the Mayor of London and Greater London Assembly

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol at £1 per litre ! Protest !

Bloggerheads graphics of the 1km zone and the actual Designated Area

Charity Sweet - who has been harrassed for reading a copy of the Independent newspaper outside Downing Street etc.

BBC Travel Jam Cams

BBC Radio London has some links to Traffic Monitoring CCTV cameras, which they publish every 5 or 10 minutes, not usually in real time.

Whenever there is an "incident" or a march or demonstration, these online images are deliverately censored i.e. "not available for operational reasons", This is despite the images being of too low a resolution to identify anybody, and, the effect of not diverting traffic away from the incident, which should be the whole point of the online Traffic Cam images in the first place.

Whitehall / Parliament Square - this camera view sometimes shows Brian Haw's peace camp, and the new GLA fence around Parliament Square Gardens. (now removed, for the time being)

Northumberland Avenue / Victoria Embankment

Trafalgar Square (on the edge of the Designated Area)


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