Sent in from a supporter (updated 2014)
This is not a comprehensive list of laws which you may come across, but they are the ones which come to mind as the ones that could be used. For further information about laws used against protesters and in more detail, check out the freebeagles website. It is worth reading up on the following laws as knowledge is power (!) however it should be noted that the police don’t always stick to the law. Despite this, you should not be put off getting out there and campaigning – hunt saboteurs are out in the fields sometimes several days a week, effectively stopping the killing and with only a handful of arrests made each year.
– Ensure that you have the name/number of a trusted solicitor with you (local groups may be able to suggest some or will be handing out “Bust Cards” with legal information on them)
– If you are meeting up with a local group, find out if they have a legal support or arrestee-support team at hand and get the contact phone number for them
– Ensure that you have a name and address that can be verified by someone (just in case)
– The police have as much right as any member of the public to take photographs/film you. Unless you are under arrest, you do not have to comply with such activity. You may also film and take photographs of the police. Putting a hand or map up in front of your face is not illegal, though putting it up in front of the camera may be seen as obstructing police. Be careful if you are filming with other people around as you do not want to get anyone else in trouble, accidentally identify them or make them feel uncomfortable
– Be careful not to use people’s real names when around the police or pro-cull people and be careful what you say around people you don’t know
Breach of the Peace
What it is: A piece of common law which deals with the threat or use of violence (it has nothing to do with noise, unless of course you’re shouting threats at someone) or the threat of damage to someone’s property in their presence.
Why it’s used: To remove you from an area or a situation.
Police powers: The police can arrest you to prevent a breach of the peace if they believe one is imminent (i.e. someone is about to get violent) – they should arrest the party from which the threat is coming, but will often just arrest the smallest or most easy-to-arrest group… You should be released as soon as the threat is over (e.g. a demonstration gets rowdy and you’re arrested. The demonstration finishes and people disperse. You should then be released as the situation has come to an end). They could also arrest you and release you away from the area.
Your rights: As above, you should be released when you no longer pose a threat to “the Queen’s peace”. When in custody, you do not have to give any details to the police.
Additional info: Depending on what you’ve actually done, the police can take you to court so you can be given a ‘bind-over’. This is basically being told to “keep the peace” for a specified length of time or be punished (e.g. you’re bound over to keep the peace for a year or you’ll have to pay £100). Unless you’re a repeat offender, they don’t usually bother with doing this.
What it is: A civil matter.
Police powers: Not many. As it’s a civil matter, the landowner (or an agent of them) can ask you to leave and can use reasonable force to remove you. If you refuse, fight back, etc. the police may be called and could use criminal legislation to arrest you if an assault, harassment, etc. have taken place or to prevent a breach of the peace if they believe you or the landowner might get violent if you remain on the land.
Additional info: You can be taken to a civil court for trespass by a landowner if they want to stop you from going on the land again (if you repeatedly do it) or if they want to get ‘damages’ (money) if you’ve cost them money. This takes a while and is covered by ‘Injunctions’ below. Unless you trespass a lot in the same area, this is unlikely.
What it is: Applies when you’re trespassing and trying to interfere with, disrupt or obstruct a lawful activity taking place or about to take place (e.g. running into a private field to disrupt a cull contractor shooting a badger or invading the NFU offices and throwing paperwork about). It also covers intimidating people in an attempt to stop them taking part in a lawful activity. It applies to the land you’re trespassing on and adjoining land.
Police powers: There are a couple of things that the police can do under the law. One section of the legislation allows them to arrest you if you’ve been involved in disrupting a lawful activity and another gives the senior officer present the power to remove you from the land if there are 2 or more people committing the offence. If they have chosen to remove you without arresting you, you will have your details taken and will be banned from returning to that land (and adjoining land – a field either side, for example) for a further 3 months.
Your rights: The activity you’re interfering with must be lawful – you’d be perfectly within your right to disrupt an illegal fox hunt (although a breach of the peace may occur if you did so…). Be ready to argue your case!
Section 241 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992
What it is: An Act to stop people using force (e.g. intimidation) to stop someone from doing an act they have the right to do or vice versa. Rarely used against activists, but pops up occasionally with road protests (and with the Krebs badger cull). We didn’t hear about it at all last year.
Police powers: To arrest anyone who has used violence, intimidation, ‘stalking’ or has hidden tools or property of a person or who watches / besets their residence or workplace with the intention to compel the person to stop doing something they have the right to do or to do something they have the right not to do…
Additional info: Very unlikely to be used, but worth knowing what it is to avoid confusion if anyone mentions the Trade Union Act!
Road Traffic Act 1988
What it is: A police power to stop any vehicle to ask the driver to show their driving license, MOT and insurance documents. They can also demand the driver give their name, address and date of birth.
Your rights: Unless passengers are suspected of being involved in an offence (or are not wearing seatbelts), only the driver has to give their details – this does not stop them asking everyone for details. If the driver doesn’t have their documents, police should give them a ‘producer’, meaning they can take the documents into a police station within 7 days. Passengers are not obliged by law to carry I.D.
Section 1 PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act)
What it is: A search power.
Why it’s used: It is used so that the police can stop and search someone who they believe may be in possession of stolen goods, dangerous articles/weapons or items with which to cause criminal damage.
Police powers: The police should only stop and search you if they have reasonable suspicion of you as an individual and it must be based on more than just what you look like (unless, of course, you fit the description of someone involved in a criminal offence). They do not have the power to read personal correspondence and should not look at your driving license or other I.D. This does not stop them doing so… They should tell you why you personally are being stopped, what power they’re using, what they’re looking for and their name and station before the search begins.
Your rights: You do not have to give your details to the police under any stop and search power, unless they’re also using ‘section 50’ powers to obtain your details. You have the right to a copy of the stop / search record.
Section 60/AA Criminal Justice Act 1994
What it is: A search power / power to remove masks and other items used to conceal your identity. The order can be put in place (and should be put in writing as soon as possible) by a police officer of the rank of inspector or above if there is the threat of serious public disorder in an area. The order can last for up to 24 hours (and be extended if necessary) and covers a specified area.
Police powers: When a ‘section 60’ order is in place, the police do not need any suspicion of someone as an individual before they search you – they can search anyone they wish to (although will obviously search those they deem ‘suspicious’ first). ‘Section 60AA’ allows police to demand you take off any item you’re using to conceal your identity (such as a buff, mask, balaclava…) and to demand you hand it over if they deem it necessary.
Your rights: Without such an order in place, there’s nothing unlawful about wearing a face mask. Again, you do not have to give your details to the police if stopped / searched.
Additional info: Face paint is not an ‘item’ and the police, therefore, have no power to ask you to remove it.
Section 50 Police Reform Act 1992
Why it’s used: So police can obtain your details if you’re involved in or are believed to have been involved in anti-social behaviour (behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person). It’s quite a ‘catch-all’ power as, if you don’t give your details, you’ll be arrested… and will probably give your details in the police station.
Police powers: To ask you for your details and arrest you if you refuse!
Your rights: Not many, unless you can convince the police that you haven’t done anything wrong… You’re not obliged, under UK law, to carry I.D. with you, although the police may want to verify your details somehow.
Additional info: You ‘only’ have to give your name and address to the police, not your date of birth.
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992
Why it’s used: To protect badgers from baiting, prevent the damaging of setts and to give them more protection during planning applications, etc. The 1992 Act gave protection to the sett as well as the badger.
Police powers: To stop and search anyone to find equipment that could be used to harm a badger or its sett or to find dead badgers or parts of them. To arrest anyone they find in breach of the law.
Your rights: Under the law you have the right to take an injured or sick badger into your possession in order to take them to a vet or other rescue centre for treatment, to report blocked setts, etc. and to report anyone you believe to be in breach of the law.
Additional info: It is illegal to have a dead badger in your possession regardless of how it was killed, unless you have the correct licence. It is fine to take live, injured badgers, even badgers that you think are about to die, if you take them straight to a place where they can be treated. Do not tell the police that you wish to take a dead badger to find out how it died as, if they believe it was shot by a cull contractor, they’ll likely say it belongs to the NFU and that it must be returned to them…
What it is: Not a law in itself, but a neat little word which has an impact on the prosecution of those suspected of committing a criminal offence. It can be added to a ‘normal’ criminal charge such as criminal damage to increase the severity of the criminal act committed or to cover situations where a plan was made but no offence yet committed.
Why it’s used: Sometimes used because a number of people have agreed to commit a criminal act, but did not go through with it / not everyone went through with it. It may also be used in order to add other people into a case when only a few people have actually done anything wrong in an attempt to prosecute more people. On a positive note, it can be a lot harder to prove that a conspiracy took place than the criminal damage (for example) on its own.
Additional info: Avoiding a ‘conspiracy’ charge is easier when your security is higher. It will be a lot easier to arrest and charge someone if they post what they’re up to (e.g. “changing lightbulbs in Clay Wood at 4am”) on facebook, tag their mates in photos of them all wearing face masks, plan illegal actions online or over the phone and so on. Without this information and without other evidence (e.g. someone arrested in a group all in possession of bolt-cutters within the cull zone) the likelihood of being charged with conspiracy (or anything) is much lower.
Summary of general advice:
– Don’t swear at or threaten anyone
– Don’t declare any intention of stopping a lawful activity
– Safety should be paramount for all parties – make sure that shooters are aware that you are there
– Wearing the same clothes as others makes everyone less identifiable
– It is perfectly lawful upon seeing a group of people with guns to shout to them “stop shooting, we believe you are acting unlawfully and you must now wait for the police”. This would be a particularly good if the police happened to be behind you as it would be making your intention very clear – that you are looking at stopping the illegal killing of badgers.
Hunt Saboteurs Association
Stop The Cull Campaign
Specific information regarding stops & searches
“No Comment” Handbooks (available from the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group)
Advisory Service for Squatters
Vegan Prisoners Support Group
Information about security