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Rough Music Outlawed In Brighton

court room | 25.07.2008 12:03 | Smash EDO | Anti-militarism | Iraq | Palestine | South Coast | World

On 23rd July 2008 in Hove Crown Court Judge Hayward and two lay magistrates dismissed the appeal of an anti-arms trade protestor against his conviction under a council bylaw enforced under section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972 which makes it an offence not to desist from shouting, singing, drumming,or playing loud music in a street or public place when asked to do so by a police constable or anyone else. Marcus Wise is the first political protester in Brighton to be convicted under the bylaw since it came into force in 1998.

Marcus Wise was found to have refused to desist after a request by a police officer to turn down a sound system under his control playing an assortment of musical compositions at a demonstration outside the EDO MBM arms factory in Home Farm Business Estate, Brighton, at around 4.45pm on 17 July 2007.

The police acted on the complaint of an employee of the arms company (who has since resigned) who said that the factory’s air conditioning was inadequate and she was forced on the day to leave a window open in hot weather. While the music was ‘entertaining at first’ it changed to ‘Reggae’ and became a nuisance. This meant the music was too loud to allow her to concentrate on her work assisting in the manufacture of weapons to kill civilian men women and children in the Middle East.

The defence counsel raised the issue that the bylaw should not be used in the context of political demonstrations as its introduction by the local Council was for other reasons.

A witness for the defence Alderman Francis Tonks, a former councillor on Brighton Council for 22 years, presented minutes of the meeting where the bylaw had been passed ten years ago.

The bylaw came into force in August 1998 was introduced to deal with alleged nuisance caused by groups of ‘drummers’ assembling by the West Pier, as well as street buskers, and car windscreen washing touts in the town. The bylaw was never intended to deal with political protests Alderman Tonks explained

Judge Hayward ruled that the bylaw was intended for ‘the prevention and suppression of nuisance’ and could be used at political demonstrations when music was being played loudly simply to cause nuisance rather than convey a 'relevant argument or message', otherwise it was clear that rights under the European Convention articles 10 and 11 did apply and protesters had a positive (though not absolute)right to make their political opinion heard even it if it was done in such a way as to be ‘irritating, contentious, unwelcome or evocative.’

The bylaw does not prohibit the use of megaphones, airhorns, or sirens, but does apply to singing, drumming and musical instruments, and amplified music that is played so loud as to cause a ‘nuisance’.

On hearing the judgement Mark Wise congratulated Judge Hayward on ‘criminalising peaceful protest while helping EDO continue in making bombs that will be used to kill and maim women and children.’

Judge Haywards findings appear to empower individual police officers to make a judgement that noise produced by shouting, singing, playing musical instruments or sound systems, is a 'nuisance' rather than a political protest yet leaves open the possibility that if political songs are sung in an irritating way or politically conscious music is played loudly enough to evoke an emotional response by the employees inside the factory, they remain exempt from the bylaw since these would be protected under ECHR Article 10 Freedom of Expression.

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Display the following 2 comments

  1. 'relevant argument or message' — MonkeyBot 5000
  2. i like the way you think monkeybot! — bill posters