Court to rule on Iraq protesters

The High Court is due to rule on whether police were guilty of an “abuse of power” after barring protesters from demonstrating against the war on Iraq. Lawyers for half the 120 passengers stopped from protesting at RAF Fairford last March have accused Gloucestershire Police of acting unlawfully. Three coaches were stopped, searched and escorted back to London.

Police lawyers say the officers were not only entitled to take the action they did, but were obliged to. The police action amounted to an abuse of power under both common law and the European Convention on Human Rights, it was argued.

Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Harrison, sitting in London, heard that the coaches from London were intercepted in a lay-by in Lechlade and searched. They were then escorted back to London because of the view taken about preventing violence by hard-core demonstrators.

Michael Fordham, for the demonstrators, said that the action of turning away the coaches and of forcible return were unlawful. He said he did not accept there would have been a breach of the peace on arrival at Fairford. Nor did he accept that there was nothing the police could have done to consider passengers on an individual basis and to seek to differentiate between them. Mr Fordham said that the police regarded their operation as a success in achieving their objectives of preventing violence and facilitating peaceful protest.

A ruling is due on Wednesday.

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