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Monthly mass cycle ride in London not unlawful, law lords rule
26 November 2008
A monthly mass cycle ride through the streets of London - Critical Mass - is not unlawful, the House of Lords has ruled today. Friends of Earth Rights and Justice Centre, which acted for Critical Mass cyclist Des Kay, hailed the ruling as "an important victory for the right to peaceful protest and for cyclists to take part in this monthly celebration of cycling."
Critical Mass cyclist Des Kay challenged the Metropolitan Police's claim that London's Critical Mass Cycle Ride was unlawful and that cyclists taking part were liable to prosecution.
All five Law Lords upheld the appeal.
Friends of the Earth Rights and Justice Centre's Head of Legal - and the solicitor for Des Kay - Phil Michaels, said:
"We are delighted that the House of Lords has unanimously upheld our argument that these monthly rides are lawful. This is an important victory for the right to peaceful protest and for cyclists to take part in this monthly celebration of cycling."
Des Kay said:
"I'm thrilled with this judgement. This was a very important case for people like me who have cycled with Critical Mass for many years. More importantly, I hope that it will encourage other cyclists to join the monthly rides."
The Critical Mass Cycle Rides are part of a global phenomenon in which cyclists in more than 400 cities worldwide take to the streets once a month in a celebration of safe cycling. The London Critical Mass Cycle Ride has taken place on the last Friday of every month since April 1994.
The principal legal issue in the case was whether the monthly rides were 'commonly or customarily held' . If so, then they were exempt from the requirements of the Public Order Act 1986. The House of Lords held that they were.
The legal action was a result of a leaflet handed out by Superintendent Gomm of the Metropolitan Police at the Critical Mass ride in September 2005. The leaflet, handed to cyclists at the ride, stated that "These cycle protests are not lawful because no organiser has provided police with the necessary notification. Your participation in this event could render you liable to prosecution."
Des Kay's case was publicly funded by the Legal Services Commission.
1. Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986
2. The case was originally successful before the Divisional Court in June 2006. However, the police appealed and the Court of Appeal found that the monthly rides were not exempt from the requirement to give advance notice under the Public Order Act.
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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust
Last modified: Dec 2008