R v McKelvey and others (Doctors for XR protest on Lambeth Bridge)
Jurisdiction: Magistrates Court
Side A: UK government (Government)
Side B: 30 health professionals (Individual)
Core objectives: Whether health professionals' blocking traffic 'for health's sake' was illegal under the Public Order Act of UK.
SummaryIn April 2022, a group of approximately thirty health professionals blocked traffic on Lambeth bridge, London. They displayed a banner saying ‘For Health’s Sake. Stop Financing Fossil Fuels’, to highlight the estimated £10 billion in annual financial support the UK government gives to the fossil fuel industry. The group were present at an earlier blockade by Extinction Rebellion, which had taken place from 2pm to 4:30pm. Most protesters left by 4.30pm but the health professionals elected to block the bridge to make their own protest. Thirty minutes later, shortly after 5pm, they were arrested.
Seven of the arrested protesters were subsequently charged with breach of section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. That section allows police officers to place conditions on public assemblies. It is then a criminal offence to take part in a public assembly whilst knowingly failing to comply with such conditions. (Section 14 has, controversially, since been expanded by the UK government to allow noisy protest to be criminalised, but those amendments were not in force at the time of the protest on Lambeth Bridge.)
The Magistrates Court acquitted all defendants. Judge Robinson, who presided over the case, was not convinced that the necessary steps that are required for the imposition of section 14 had been taken. The Judge remarked on acquittal “I was impressed by the integrity and rationality of their beliefs” and “their evidence was highly moving.”