December 7 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
A man who was ‘kettled’ during a protest in central London against Shimon Peres has lost his claim for damages against the Metropolitan Police.
Joseph Wright, also known as Matthew Richardson, was contained in a pen outside Chatham House in St James’s Square, where the Israeli president was due to give a speech two years ago.
Mr Wright, who was seeking up to £25,000 compensation, alleged he was falsely imprisoned for one hour and 50 minutes, subjected to assault and battery when moved into the pen, and that his human rights were breached.
In July, Hugh Southey QC told Mr Justice Jay at the High Court the case was important because of its implications for freedom of protest.
He said: “This was essentially a peaceful protest and the conduct of the defendant, if lawful, would have a chilling effect.”
Mr Wright, 26, of County Street, Southwark, south-east London, was one of about 40 protesters holding placards and chanting at the demonstration in March 2011.
It was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to express opposition to the Israeli government’s policies.
He says he was told by an officer to move into the pen to prevent a breach of the peace, but that there was no justification for this as the protest was peaceful and not going to cause an obstruction.
Today, the judge dismissed his case, saying overall the police had reasonable grounds to think a breach of the peace was imminent, and that containment was ‘both necessary and proportionate’.
The judge agreed there was a degree of physical confrontation when Mr Wright was ushered into the pen, but it was minimal, and he was still free to demonstrate, albeit not quite where he wished to.
He added that if he had ruled in Mr Wright’s favour he would have awarded him £500 damages.