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Remembrance Day 2007: Some Legal Advice


IMPORTANT UPDATE - READ THIS FIRST:
3:30pm, 7th November 2007

I have just received a telephone response from the police relating to my written application for permission to wear "an official standard-sized poppy badge prominently on my lapel as I walk from Waterloo Station and into/around Parliament" to "raise awareness of Remembrance Day and the associated British Legion campaign."

I have been informed by phone that my application has been rejected because the police "do not consider this to be a protest." (Please note that Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 specifies 'demonstrations', *not* 'protests'.)

I will bring you the official wording as soon as is possible (I've requested confirmation in writing and have been promised a response via email).

Of course, this raises all sorts of questions about the capacity/tendency of the police to favour one political campaign over another but, for now, you need to be aware that the wearing of a poppy badge in the designated area is officially legal without police permission.

The buttons have been changed to include an 'update' message, but the remainder of this page will remain live and unchanged for archive purposes.


Map of the designated area

THE FOLLOWING IS A SERIOUS WARNING:

Wearing a poppy could get you arrested!

You may note some distinct similarities between this alert and the recent warning about Red Nose Day, and there's a very good reason for that;

Despite multiple attempts by the police to rubbish my legal warning off the record or downplay it in the media, Mark Thomas pressed the matter and the police were forced to admit that if he wore a red nose without permission he could indeed be arrested for an having unauthorised demonstration.

And what applies to red noses must equally apply to poppies; otherwise the police will be forced to admit that their role has become unacceptably politicised via poor legislation. Their job is to enforce the law as it stands, not to take great pains to interpret/enforce the law selectively in order to give one interest group priority over another.

My job as a responsible citizen is to inform you that it is currently illegal for you to wear a poppy or promote the 2007 Poppy Appeal in any way within the designated area surrounding Parliament if you do not first seek permission from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Simply wearing a poppy could result in a fine of £1,000.

Organising a Remembrance Day or Poppy Appeal event that takes place within the designated area could result in a fine of £2,500 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks.

No, this is not a joke. Far from it.

Full details appear below. Please share them.

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Remembrance Day, the Poppy Appeal and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 is very clear on this:

Any person who-

    (a) organises a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or

    (b) takes part in a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or

    (c) carries on a demonstration by himself in a public place in the designated area,

       is guilty of an offence if, when the demonstration starts, authorisation for the demonstration has not been given under section 134(2)

The 2007 Poppy Appeal Press Pack from The Royal British Legion is equally clear:

It is just weeks since we launched our Honour the Covenant campaign, lobbying for improved conditions for the Service community and it is clear that there is much still to be done to achieve this. Our annual Poppy Appeal is the Legionís major fundraising campaign and our aim this year is to raise an unprecedented £27.5 million allowing us to continue the work that means so much to the thousands of serving and ex-Service people and their families who approach The Royal British Legion every year for help.

The 2007 Poppy Appeal campaign highlights the following stark facts about those in need of assistance from The Royal British Legion:

    - 900,000 ex-Service people with a disability
    - 180,000 ex-Service people without visitors
    - 40,000 families who need our support

A demonstration is generally defined as any deliberate exhibition of opinion on a political or other question.

The Royal British Legion do not hide the fact that they are a lobbying group and that their Poppy Appeal is designed not only to raise funds for lobbying purposes, but also - crucially - to raise awareness of specific political issues.

Therefore, you should keep the following in mind before affiliating yourself with this campaign anywhere inside the designated area:


Submitting Your Form(s)

Poppies

If you wish to wear a poppy within the designated area, you will first need to seek permission from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. To do this, you will need to download the form below and submit it in person or mail it via Recorded Delivery a week before you wish to begin wearing your poppy.

You do not have to submit a form for each occasion you wish to wear a poppy. The form allows you to submit a start and finish time or date (thereby allowing you to apply for permission between now and Remembrance Day itself).

Please be aware that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner may specify certain limits regarding the nature, location or duration of your poppy-wearing activities.

Click here to download Form 3175-A as a PDF file. (31Kb)
Click here to download Form 3175-A as a Word document (143Kb)

Submit your form to: Charing Cross Police Station, Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP

Remembrance Day Events

If you wish to stage a Remembrance Day event in Westminster, you will need to submit the following form. If your planned event is for Remembrance Day (November 11) ideally, you will need to submit this form by the November 5, but if you miss this deadline, there is a provision under the act that allows the police to grant permission as little as 24 hours before any given event.

Please be aware that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner may specify certain limits regarding the nature, location or duration of your event. Also, if you are seeking to publicise your event, please be aware that the use of loudspeakers in the designated area is banned outright.

Click here to download Form 3175-A as a PDF file. (31Kb)
Click here to download Form 3175-A as a Word document (143Kb)

Submit your form to: Charing Cross Police Station, Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP


The Law, The Police and Demonstrations

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 does not itself define what constitutes a demonstration. This has led to a situation where it is left to the police to decide what does and does not classify as an offence under this act. This in itself is an affront to democracy (the police are there to enforce the law, not dictate it) but this is the situation we are in at the moment, so what the police have and have not classified as a demonstration in the past needs to be taken into account;

So far, the police have warned, cautioned and/or arrested people under this act for displaying lapel badges, wearing t-shirts with slogans and even for carrying magazines containing political articles.

In terms of the scale of demonstration, a poppy certainly applies.

As has already been made clear, in terms of the nature of demonstration, raising awareness also applies. Further, people have not only been arrested but convicted for the crime of reading out names of soldiers killed in Iraq at central London's Cenotaph.

Finally, while the police have in the past issued a statement that an impromptu carol service held in Parliament Square did not classify as a demonstration, they cannot issue a statement making an exception for Remembrance Day, as any level of participation involves an overt act with a clear political message. The police cannot publicly make an exception in this case (or even 'merely' turn a blind eye) without favouring one political cause over another.


The Possibility of a Group Application

In theory, The Royal British Legion could submit an application on behalf of all of their supporters that applies from 6 days after their application until Remembrance Day (Sunday 11 November 2007).

However, they will have great difficulty estimating the number of participants and will also be unable to provide details regarding the exact location and nature of the demonstration(s) involved.

Also, even if such an application were submitted and approved, this would make it legal for anyone to demonstrate on a theme of veteran awareness during that period (providing they wore a poppy or made some other visible statement of affiliation when doing so). The Royal British Legion would also have to distribute information to all of their supporters regarding any restrictions laid down by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.


Spreading The Word

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Fine Print

Forms via Mark Thomas. This website is not affiliated with The Royal British Legion. IANAL.



© Tim Ireland 2007