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Friends of the Earth announced it had applied, on behalf of cyclist Des Kay to take the Critical Mass Cycle Ride dispute to the House of Lords today (21 May) after the Court of Appeal found that the monthly rides were not exempt from the requirement to give advance notice under the Public Order Act.

Friends of the Earth's Rights & Justice Centre has been acting for Critical Mass cyclist Des Kay. Kay had challenged the Metropolitan Police's claim that London's Critical Mass Cycle Ride was unlawful and that cyclists taking part were liable to prosecution.

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.

Phil Michaels, Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth Rights & Justice Centre and the solicitor for Des Kay said:

"We are in an unusual situation where the police's appeal has been successful even though, over two separate hearings, three judges have found in our favour and only two have found against us. Although the result is disappointing we are encouraged by the strongly worded dissenting judgments in our favour and hope that we are able to take this important case to the House of Lords.

Critical Mass represents a long standing and important part of London's vibrant cycling culture and everything should be done to encourage it. We hope that the police will think very carefully indeed before they take any steps as a result of this judgment".

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."

Lawyers for Des Kay, a keen cyclist and environmentalist from Kingston, argued that the monthly rides were not subject to the advance notification requirements [1] because they fell within an exception for processions that are "commonly or customarily held". The Divisional Court (of two judges) originally found for Mr Kay ruling that:

"an unbroken succession of over 140 of these collective cycle rides, setting out from a fixed location on a fixed day of the month and time of day and travelling, albeit by varying routes, through the Metropolitan Police area, cannot by now sensibly be called anything but common or customary."

The Court of Appeal has rejected that judgment by a majority of 2 to 1.


[1] Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986

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