What can, and can’t, be done about the Britain First demonstration in Ramsgate

The laws on marches and demonstrations (stock image)

A demonstration in Ramsgate by far-right group Britain First is unlikely to be banned but there are powers to impose conditions if there is evidence that serious disorder will take place.

Britain First plans to gather at Ramsgate train station on October 14, in protest at the arrests of leaders Paul Golden and Jayda Fransen  for inciting racial hatred.

The arrests were in connection with demonstrations, leaflets and videos about the trial of four men, later convicted of raping a teenager above the former 555 takeaway in Northwood Road, Ramsgate.

In May 555 owner Tamim Rahmani, Shershah Muslimyar, 20, formerly of Hovenden Close, Canterbury; Rafiullah Hamidy, 24, formerly of High Street, Herne Bay; and Hamid Mohamadi, 18, formerly of Boughton Aluph, Ashford, were found guilty of raping the 16-year-old  in a room above the food outlet in the early hours of Sunday 18 September 2016.

The four are due to be sentenced on September 8. The premises licence for 555 – renamed YSY – was revoked on August 17. The licence holder has 21 days from that date to appeal the decision to the magistrates court. He can continue to trade for that 21 day period under the terms of the licence. If no appeal is lodged, the licence will lapse in 21 days time.

The Britain First protest has 107 people signed up as going on the group’s facebook page.

A counter protest is being organised by the Kent Against Racism Network (KARN). The ‘Karnival Against Facism,’ also meeting at Ramsgate station at 2pm on October 14, will feature music and dance.

What are the rules of protest?

Do police have to be notified in advance?

The organisers of a march are required to give advance written notice to the police. The notice, which can be in the form of a letter, should be given at least 6 days before the march, or with as much advance warning as possible,  by being sent recorded delivery or hand delivered to a police station.

The notice should set out the date and start time of the proposed march and its route. It must also include the name and address of at least one of the organisers.

Anyone who organises a march and doesn’t give the required notice commits an offence for which they can be fined up to £1,000. Unless this arises from circumstances beyond his/her control the organiser also commits an offence if the date, start time or route of the march differs from those notified to the police.

There is no requirement to give the police advance notice of demonstrations (where people are gathered in just one place).

Can it be banned?

Unlikely. Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Laws and the actions or decisions of public bodies which interfere with these rights can now be challenged on the grounds that there is no adequate justification for them or that they are disproportionate in their effects.

Articles 10 and 11 may also impose obligations on the police and other public bodies to positively facilitate protest.

An event could only be stopped if there was evidence to suggest there would be serious disorder such as rioting or looting but the evidence threshold  is very high.

There is a power under section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986 to ban marches outright but a Chief Constable can only decide to do this if they have grounds to believe that imposing conditions will not be enough to prevent the march leading to serious public disorder. Their decision must also be approved by the council and, in all cases, the Home Secretary.

Such powers do not exist for a ‘public assembly’- defined as two or more people in a public place that is wholly or partly open to the air. This can extend to privately owned land that the public generally have access to. The exception is when the owner of private land does not give permission. This is classed as a ‘trespassory assembly.’

Can conditions be imposed?

Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 give the police the power to impose conditions on marches and any demonstration that comes within the definition of a “public assembly”.

The power to impose conditions in advance can only be exercised by the Chief Constable. This power can be delegated to an Assistant Chief Constable. Conditions imposed in advance have to be put in writing.

Once a march has started to assemble or a demonstration is under way conditions can be imposed by the most senior police officer present. These can be given orally. The Chief Constable/senior officer present can only impose conditions if  they consider the march/ demonstration may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to others or that the purpose of the organisers is to intimidate others into doing or not doing something

Conditions on an ‘assembly’

Conditions on the demonstration’s location, duration and the maximum number of people that can take part can be imposed.

Conditions on a march

In relation to a march conditions can be made regarding the route or a prohibition on entering certain areas.

Kent Police confirmed it is aware of the planned protest in October.

A police spokesman said: “ We have a legal obligation to facilitate peaceful protest and officers will be carrying out enquiries to establish the organisers’ plans for managing the event.”