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Fairford Coaches Appeal - News

london imcista | 19.02.2004 11:39 | London

Press Release by John Halford, solicitor of the Fairford Coach Action:

London. Today, Feb 19th, the provisional court made a landmark ruling, that the police had unlawfully breached the human rights of anti-war protester Jane Lapote. She was detained and prevented from attending a protest at RAF Fariford last March.

The court firmly ruled Ms Lapote's detention and forced return to London could not be justified either under the common law or the human rights act. Her right not to be arbitrarily detained Art 5 of the human rights convention had been breached, as had those of the other protesters.

Giving judgement, Lord Justice May commented on Ms Lapotes case in this way: for practical purposes, none of the articles seized were to be regarded as offensive.
Three pairs of scissors would not make much impression on the perimeter fencing of the airbase. He added the claimants enforced return on the coach to London was not lawful because

a) there was no immediately apprehended breach of the peace by her to justify even transitory detention.

b) detention on the coach for two and a half hours went far beyond anything which could conceivably constitute transitory detention such as I have described

c) even if there had been the circumstances and length of the detention on the coach were wholly disproportionate to the apprehended breach of the peace.

However, the court went on to rule that the police were acting lawfully interning Ms Laporte and the other protesters away from the demonstration. A conclusion Mr Halford, the solicitor for the case, described as inconsistent and unsatisfactory. He said, "there remains unfinished business in this case. However, the ruling that it was lawful to return the protesters is not satisfactory, and we will put our argument on that point to the court of appeal. This case was about more than detention alone. We argued that the rights of freedom of speech and assembly were also breached. The court disagreed. However, we simply cannot see how the police were wrong to detain, but right to turn the protesters back. The justification offered for both was exactly the same. Nor is the court's ruling is consistent what the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly said on this issue that blanket measures curtailing one individuals freedom of speech because others at a lawful demonstration might break the law breach the Human Rights Convention. Freedom of speech is a foundation of democracy. It can not be right for the police to scifle protest by preventing attendants at a demonstration simply on the grounds that some who might attend might cause trouble. That would allow the police to prevent any and in fact every demonstration taking place."

Jane Laporte, the claimant, said: "We will be celebrating the ruling that the police acted unlawfully in detaining us and breached our human rights. But the judgement should have gone further. Attending a demonstration is a basic freedom which everyone should enjoy if a society is to function as a democracy. We hoped that the court would uphold this freedom and plan to put that point to the court of appeal."

For more information about this press release, please contact:

John Halford, Bindman & Partners. Phone 0207 833 4433, Email

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  1. Laporte, R (on the application of) v Gloucestershire Constabulary & Ors [2004] E — Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Harrison