A police ban on Extinction Rebellion protests in London last month was unlawful, High Court judges have ruled.
The Metropolitan Police imposed the ban, which prevented two or more people from the group taking part in protests, under the Public Order Act.
But judges have ruled that police had no power to do this because the law did not cover “separate assemblies”.
Activists say the police could now face claims for false imprisonment from “potentially hundreds” of protesters.
The Met said it would “carefully consider” the ruling.
The protests cost £24m to police and led to 1,828 arrests, with 165 people charged with offences, the Met says.
During the court hearing, the force had argued that the ban was the only way to tackle widespread disruption.
Announcing their judgement, however, Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled in favour of Extinction Rebellion.
Lord Justice Dingemans said: “Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if co-ordinated under the umbrella of one body, are not a public assembly within the meaning of… the Act.
“The XR [Extinction Rebellion] autumn uprising intended to be held from October 14 to 19 was not therefore a public assembly… therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it under… the Act.”
The judges noted that there are powers within that act which may be used lawfully to “control future protests which are deliberately designed to ‘take police resources to breaking point”‘.
During 10 days of climate change protests last month, activists shut down areas around Parliament and the Bank of England, and targeted London City Airport.
Police had previously warned protesters to keep demonstrations in Trafalgar Square, or risk arrest – before issuing a city-wide ban on 14 October, under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.
The court was told that the ban was issued on the same day as a message posted online by London activists.
It told protesters to adopt the “be water” tactics used by demonstrators in Hong Kong.
“Be water, crowds split up into fast moving groups and pairs, that network via phones,” it said.
“You gather at particular spots in large numbers, until the police response building then you move to a new disruptive site.”
The ban was lifted four days later, with officers saying that it was no longer necessary because demonstrations had ended.
BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford
This was a radical tactic adopted by the Metropolitan Police on 14 October – banning all future Extinction Rebellion protests across London for several days.
But it has backfired. No police force likes to have their actions described as “unlawful”.
Today’s High Court ruling takes away from officers the ability to impose a city-wide ban of future protests, which means demonstrators wanting to be “like water” – where they split into fast-moving groups – will be difficult to control if they are trying to disrupt a whole city.
So police will have to deal with what is in front of them.
If a specific protest in a specific place gets out of hand they will be able to close it down, but it will have to be a decision made by an officer on the spot, and not by someone sitting in a police station worrying about what protests may happen the next day.
Responding to Wednesday’s ruling, Extinction Rebellion UK tweeted “we won’t be silenced”.
Green Party peer Jenny Jones – who was among those to bring the legal challenge – described the ruling as “historic” and criticised ministers for speaking out in favour of the ban.
Met Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said the decision to impose the ban had been “reasonable and proportionate” and “was not taken lightly”.
He added that the police “would not and cannot ban protest” and that the ruling was made specifically on whether officers could arrest demonstrators for assembling in central London.
“There is no criticism from me of the decision to impose the condition, which was made with good intent and based upon the circumstances confronting the command team at the time,” he said.
“It did in fact result in the reduction of the disruption. Nevertheless, this case highlights that policing demonstrations like these, within the existing legal framework, can be challenging.”
What does Extinction Rebellion want?
Extinction Rebellion’s legal victory follows two weeks of protests in the UK last month.
The group (XR for short) wants governments to declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and take immediate action to address climate change.
It describes itself as an international “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement”.
Launched in 2018, organisers say it has groups willing to take action in dozens of countries.
It uses an hourglass inside a circle as its logo, to represent time running out for many species.
Downward dogs and yoga mats have replaced cars and buses on London’s Tower Bridge as part of Car Free Day.
The mass yoga session was one of a number of activities taking place in the capital as more than 16 miles (27 km) of streets were shut.
Bank junction has been turned into a festival space while children will race go-karts in the Square Mile.
The closures will be in place until 19:00 BST with roads elsewhere expected to be busy as a result.
Tower and London Bridge were shut at 07:00 along with streets in parts of the City, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.
Among the other activities taking place are a hedge maze in Cheapside and classic cycle rides on Tower Bridge.
Organisers hope more than 150,000 people will join the event which has been named Reimagine.
Away from the centre, 15 boroughs will be running their own Car Free Day celebrations and more than 340 “play streets” – safe spaces for local people to socialise and play – have been approved some 24 boroughs.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said the day was about “demonstrating our commitment to cleaning up our toxic air and experiencing a greener way of living”.
Transport for London has warned that those who do take to the roads should expect “significant delays”.
A man in his 60s has been stabbed to death in west London.
Emergency services were called to St Mary’s Avenue South in Southall at 18:40 BST on Saturday where they found the man suffering from a stab wound.
He was pronounced dead at the scene and his next of kin have been informed, the Met Police said.
A man in his 30s has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is in hospital under police guard being treated for minor injuries.
According to a witness who gave the injured man first aid, he was stabbed after leaving a pub.
Raj Grover, who lives near to the victim, said he was getting ready to go to his own birthday party when the man knocked on his front door.
“He was ringing our doorbell,” he told the PA news agency. “He rang the bell and I went out, my son was there, he was shouting ‘Dad, come out’.
“I went downstairs and saw he was full of blood, and then I was running to pick up a towel.
“I put the towel on and I was pressing to stop the blood, then my wife came out, we called the ambulance and the police.”
Mr Grover, who runs a local business, said the victim asked him to call his wife, who then arrived at the house.
“His wife, she mentioned he went to the pub, I don’t know what happened in the pub just around the corner, he came back, was on his way back and somebody stabbed him twice, stabbed him two times with a knife on the stomach and on his side,” he said.
A crime scene and multiple road closures are in place in the area, Scotland Yard said on Saturday evening.
Ola Ince is a south Londoner who is taking London’s theatre scene by storm.
The 30-year-old has directed a host of shows in the West End including Tina the Musical.
She is also not afraid to tackle controversial subjects that ask questions about race and gender.
Ms Ince addresses these issues in her latest project at the Donmar Warehouse.
The first bridges have been lit up as part of a design contest to illuminate the River Thames across London.
Up to 15 crossings will eventually become part of Illuminated River, thought to be the longest public art commission in the world.
New lighting – with connected LED patterns – now adorns London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium bridges.
The privately-funded work is expected to stay for at least 10 years.
When complete, Illuminated River will cover a total of 4.5 nautical miles (8.3km) of the Thames.
The new lighting is designed to co-ordinate London’s bridges, with old lights replaced with new LEDs that will switch off at 02:00 BST in order to reduce energy consumption.
The Illuminated River Foundation charity raised funds to install and maintain the lighting.
The only public funding has been £250,000 of “seed funding” from City Hall for the initial competition, while the City of London Corporation paid to replace the light fittings on London Bridge.
The design was created by American light artist Leo Villareal and British architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, who were influenced by the palettes of Impressionist and English Romantic painters.
“I’m hoping to follow in the footsteps of Monet, Turner and Whistler and reveal the truly unique, inspiring and poetic character of the Thames,” Villareal said.
Hannah Rothschild, who was behind the idea, said the project “will transform a snake of darkness into a ribbon of light”.
It is hoped the next five bridges will be illuminated by autumn 2020.
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London’s Mayor has advised planners to reject proposals for a new skyscraper.
In April, the City of London Corporation (CLC) approved the 1,000ft (305m) Tulip tower proposed for Bury Street, beside the Gherkin tower.
It argued it was “truly unique” and would increase the number of people visiting the capital at weekends.
But Sadiq Khan said a number of concerns raised in a London Review Panel report also meant the tower would harm the skyline.
Mr Khan advised CLC planners reject permission on the basis of the reasons outlined by the Panel, which included:
- The design did not constitute the very highest quality of design required for a building in the location
- The proximity, height and material would have a negative impact on the Tower of London World Heritage site
- The space around the proposed building was insufficient to be safe and to prevent overcrowding
- A lack of new cycle parking spaces failed to comply with the London Plan for transport
The London Review Panel concluded The Tulip “does not represent world class architecture, it lacks sufficient quality and quantity of public open space, and its social and environmental sustainability do not match the ambition of its height and impact on London’s skyline”.
A spokesperson for the mayor said Mr Khan “has a number of serious concerns with this application and having studied it in detail has refused permission for a scheme that he believes would result in very limited public benefit”.
The Foster + Partners-designed tower was to be built at 20 Bury Street.
The Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee had supported the plan by 18 votes to seven after conditions were imposed such as restricting ticket sales during peak hours.
An engineering train has derailed in south London causing the closure of the Gatwick Express service.
The train partly left the tracks at low speed outside Victoria station at about 03:00 BST.
No Gatwick Express trains are running, while Southern warned its services would be “severely reduced”.
The train has moved and the track will now be “assessed for damage” and repaired if necessary through the night, according to Southern.
Disruption is expected to last throughout Tuesday but Gatwick Express and Southern said a normal service was expected on Wednesday.
The train was stuck across a number of tracks meaning platforms nine to 13 at Victoria were blocked, while services were not able to use the “slow/stopping” lines to and from Clapham Junction.
Some trains were also unable to leave the Battersea depot – further reducing the number of services that could run.
Recovery teams cut the 50-tonne train from its two wagons and lifted it back on to the track using hydraulic jacks.
Trains running through Gatwick Airport were also disrupted by a separate signalling fault and a passenger who was injured as they left a carriage, which led to one platform becoming blocked.
Some commuters took to social media as they found their trains had been cancelled.
Other stations, including London Bridge, also became congested as people tried to find alternative routes.
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A Network Rail spokesperson said passengers should travel “via London Bridge or London Blackfriars as trains will be delayed, diverted or cancelled”.
Train tickets for Southern and Gatwick Express services have been accepted for reasonable routes on other services.
Train services affected:
- Gatwick Express services are completely suspended
- Services to Sutton, Epsom Downs and Epsom to and from London Victoria are reduced
- Some mainline services will be diverted to London Bridge instead of London Victoria
- Southern services between London Victoria and Reigate are cancelled and passengers are advised to use Thameslink to and from Redhill and then Great Western Railway between Reigate and Redhill
- Services between London Victoria and East Grinstead will call additionally at Selhurst and Streatham Common
- Services between Milton Keynes and East Croydon will call additionally at Wandsworth Common when not already booked to do so
- Services between London Victoria and Horsham via Sutton will call additionally at Ewell East
- Southern trains from Sutton to London Bridge via Wimbledon will be cancelled. Thameslink will be running as normal
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London’s mayor and several councils have called for a new system to be introduced for anyone wishing to offer short-term lets for visitors to the city.
Landlords cannot legally rent out their homes in the capital for more than 90 nights a year under strict regulations, but a BBC investigation found some landlords were being encouraged to break the rules.
The group have written to the government calling for a new mandatory registration system, so landlords would have to log short lets to tourists online.
Police made 14 arrests after four separate London attacks left two teenagers dead and three men injured in the space of 12 hours.
A 18-year-old man was stabbed to death at about 16:42 BST on Friday in Wandsworth, south London.
Police were called minutes later, at 16:54, to Plumstead, south-east London, where a 19-year-old man was shot dead.
In the early hours of Saturday two men were stabbed in Clapham and another was stabbed in Brixton.
The condition of two of the men is not yet known, while the third has injuries not deemed to be life-threatening or changing.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “sickened” following the death of the two teenagers.
Six males – aged between 16 and 19 – have been arrested on suspicion of murder of the teenager in Wandsworth, who died from stab wounds in Deeside Road.
Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan said the killing was “heartbreaking” and “absolutely tragic”.
After the shooting in a car park on Hartville Road in Plumstead, three boys aged between 16 and 17 and a 17-year-old girl were arrested on suspicion of murder.
Armed police, local officers, the London Ambulance Service and an air ambulance all attended, but the teenage victim died a short while later.
A section 60 order has been authorised in the Greenwich and Bexley areas.
Police were then called to a fight on Bedford Road near Clapham North Tube station in south-west London at 03:22, where two men suffered slash and stab wounds.
Four men have been arrested – two for violent disorder, one for carrying a bladed instrument and the other for possession of a Taser.
At 04:00 police were called by the ambulance service after an altercation at a pub in Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, south London, where two men were injured.
One was stabbed and remains in hospital while the other received minor injuries.
The two deaths take the total number of murders in London in 2019 to 55.
Last year there were 132 homicides – the highest level for a decade.
A couple were subjected to a homophobic attack and left covered in blood after refusing to kiss on a bus.
The attack on Melania Geymonat, 28, and her girlfriend Chris happened on the top deck of a London night bus as they were travelling to Camden Town in the early hours of 30 May.
A group of young men began harassing them when they discovered the women were a couple, asking them to kiss while making sexual gestures.
Scotland Yard is investigating.
Miss Geymonat posted on her Facebook page: “In an attempt to calm things down, I started making jokes. I thought this might make them go away. Chris even pretended she was sick, but they kept on harassing us, throwing us coins and becoming more enthusiastic about it.
“The next thing I know is that Chris is in the middle of the bus fighting with them. On an impulse, I went over there only to find her face bleeding and three of them beating her up.
“The next thing I know is I’m being punched. I got dizzy at the sight of my blood and fell back. I don’t remember whether or not I lost consciousness. Suddenly the bus had stopped, the police were there and I was bleeding all over.”
Miss Geymonat added that the gang of at least four men might have broken her nose during the ordeal, and stole a phone and bag from them before fleeing.
Both women were taken to hospital for treatment to facial injuries.
Miss Geymonat said one of the men spoke Spanish and the others had British accents.
London mayor Sadiq Khan described the attack as disgusting and misogynistic.
Siwan Hayward, director of compliance, policing and on-street services at Transport for London, described the assault as “sickening” and “utterly unacceptable”, adding that “homophobic behaviour and abuse is a hate crime and won’t be tolerated on our network”.
Police are appealing for witnesses for the attack which happened at about 02:30 BST on a N31 bus in West Hampstead.