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Protesters Unsuccessfully Appeal Conviction under Articles 10 and 11

The case of R v Trowland initially heard in the Summer of 2023 concerned an appeal to the sentence given in April 2023 to two protestors who caused the closure of the M25 motorway after climbing the Queen Elizabeth II bridge over it, suspending a “Just Stop Oil” banner and remaining in hammocks there for 36 hours before they were arrested.

This caused a considerable amount of disruption, closing the motorway for a number of hours, necessitated a large police response and had a considerable economic effect on the community, with people being restricted from carrying out their normal everyday tasks. A conviction was brought under the new offence of causing a public nuisance and the defendants as well as having previous like convictions, were also on bail at the time of the offence, an aggravating factor, were sentenced to three years and two years seven months custody respectively. An appeal on the sentence was brought for being excessive and it was claimed that there was a disproportionate interference with Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Considering this appeal the Court of Appeal, although acknowledging that these sentence went beyond previous sentences for this type of offending, they were cautious looking at the new offence and did not want to be drawn on the merits of any protest. Looking at the Articles which they were considering it was seen that there was no reasonable excuse for the protest and the actual aim of the protest appeared to be to cause disruption, not as part of any right to assemble or show their own expression. Due to the harm suffered, the culpability of the defendants as well as their previous convictions the appeal was not allowed. After losing this appeal it has now been confirmed that judges have refused to allow a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

Indeed the new laws brough in under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act have a maximum sentence of 10 years in order to try and det others from offending and Lady Carr stated that these sentences just reflected the will of Parliament to curb the disruption these type of protests bring.

Questions to consider

What new offence were the defendants charged under?

What is the aim of this legislation?

What according to article was an aggravating feature of the offence committed?

What do Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protect?

Do you agree that the sentences were appropriate?

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Gemma is an experienced Law teacher and examiner.

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