Bindmans wins key free speech case at the Lords

Bindman & Partners has won a House of Lords judgment supporting the public’s right to free speech.

Partner John Halford acted for Jane Laporte, who brought the case against Gloucestershire Police on behalf of 120 anti-war campaigners who were prevented from protesting outside RAF Fairford in March 2003, before the start of the Iraq war.

Laporte and her fellow demonstrators were passengers on three coaches travelling to the base to demonstrate against the proposed invasion. However the police stopped the coaches and turned them back to London, despite the planned protest being a peaceful one.

This morning (Wednesday 13 December) the Lords found unanimously that the police’s actions were unlawful and that they restricted the demonstrators’ rights to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act.

Lord Bingham, giving the leading judgment, said the case raised “important questions on the right of the private citizen to demonstrate against government policy and the powers of the police to curtail exercise of that right”.

Halford instructed Matrix Chambers’ Ben Emmerson QC and Blackstone Chambers’ Michael Fordham QC for Laporte.

Gloucestershire Constabulary Legal Services instructed 5 Essex Court’s Simon Freeland QC.

Interventions came from a number of parties. Thames Valley Police Legal Services instructed Edward Faulks QC and Simon Readhead QC of 1 Chancery Lane. Blackstone Chambers’ David Pannick QC was instructed by Director of Legal Services for the Metropolitan Police. Matrix Chambers’ Rabinder Singh QC appeared on behalf of Liberty.