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Broadbent: Public Law Directions

Chapter 9

1. Which human rights are protected?

A number might be identified, but predominantly Arts. 5 (personal liberty), 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of association).

2. What limitations on those rights are permissible?

According to the article in question, limitations must be necessary in a democratic society, must be made by law and must not be disproportionate.  For example, public order is a basis on which restrictions may be placed on individual freedom.

3. What form do such limitations take in public order law?

Generally these are in the form of criminal offences, though the Public Order Act contains a number of administrative requirements which are backed by criminal sanctions. There are also the powers given to the police either by statute or at common law in relation to breaches of the peace.

4. What powers are given to the police to prevent disorder?

They have a wide range of powers to deal with public gatherings before they happen (e.g. under ss.11, 12 Public Order Act 1986) or at the time of such gatherings (e.g. under s.14 or at common law in respect of breaches of the peace) which cover a wide range of activity including requiring people to move to another location, arrest, preventing people from going to a specific place etc.

5. Has an adequate balance been achieved between giving the police sufficient powers to prevent disorder whilst upholding the right to free expression?

The answer to this will depend on your perspective.  If you believe that the predominant purpose of the law is to prevent disorder, then you may want to argue that the police need greater powers than they currently enjoy and that the balance is too much in favour of those engaged in protests or other gatherings. If you believe that the object of the law is to promote the rights of individuals to gather together for lawful purposes, then you might argue that the law is too restrictive of this right.