SF and DUP seek to restrict right of Public Assembly

More on the consultation on Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests (not endorsed by the Justice Minster) – SF and the DUP have moved beyond reviewing legislation on parades and associated protests under the Public Processions Act and are seeking to place restrictions on all Public Assemblies/Protests.

Public Assemblies are currently dealt with under the Public Order Act and only subject to restrictions:

(a)it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or

(b)the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or to do an act they have a right not to do,

Now with the review on parades, Public Assembly would become a privilege to be applied for and treated the same as parades and protests. OFMDFM are also seeking the ability to arbitrarily define the numbers that constitute an assembly at will.

Public assembly

5.—(1) In this Act “public assembly” means—

(a) a public procession (including parades) (see section 6),

(b) a public meeting (see section 7), and

(c) a protest meeting (see section 8).

Public meeting

7.—(1) “Public meeting” means a meeting of 50 or more persons—

(a) held in a public place, and

(b) which the public, or a section of the public, are invited to attend.

(2) In this section “public place” means—

(a) a road or footway within the meaning of the Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993, or

(b) any other place, apart from a building, to which the public or a section of the public has access (whether or not on payment and whether by right or by virtue of express or implied permission).

(3) “Section of the public” includes a class consisting of all or some of the members of a club or organisation.

(4) This section is subject to section 8(3).

(5) The First Minister and deputy First Minister acting jointly may by order amend subsection (1) so as to substitute a different number for the number specified there.

While the First and Deputy First Minister have clearly approved this plan  it remains to be seen if the Minister for Justice, who has not been consulted, will support it.