Garden Court Chambers is nationally renowned for its expertise in successfully defending the right to protest for a wide range of progressive campaigners.
We have a long history of representing protestors in criminal and civil litigation, over many decades including the Mangrove 9, Poll Tax protestors, striking miners at Orgreave, Brian Haw’s occupation of Parliament Square and the Occupy movement.
We have been instructed to represent activists in most of the major protests of recent years including those against fracking, climate change, racism, war, austerity and the arms trade.
Protecting the right to freedom of expression and assembly is at the core of our founding ethos to hold state agents to account and promote fundamental human rights.
Garden Court is unique in possessing expertise across all areas of the law relating to protest: from criminal defence to injunctions to civil action and public law challenges.
Garden Court Chambers is highly ranked by the legal directories for police actions, criminal defence, civil liberties and human rights, including a number of Band 1 silks and juniors. Clients benefit from our multi-disciplinary expertise across all of these areas, allowing us to provide a seamless service, unrivalled by most other chambers.
We have a long-standing track record of pursuing bold and innovative points of law through the courts to secure the best possible outcome for our clients. We have represented campaigners in the criminal courts and the civil courts, including the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
Our barristers have lectured and written widely on protest law. Members of our team have written ‘The Protest Handbook’, which covers both the criminal and civil aspects of protest law.
Garden Court barristers have significant expertise challenging the use of civil injunctions by public authorities and corporations to prevent and restrict the rights of protesters, including injunctions against “persons unknown". We have acted in most of the lead cases in which injunctions under the Protection From Harassment Act 1997 were transposed to the protest context.
We also have extensive knowledge of human rights defences to civil injunctions associated with our leading expertise defending the rights of Gypsies and Travellers.
We have successfully challenged injunctions against animal rights protestors and environmental protestors, for example Plane Stupid and anti-fracking protestors demonstrating against INEOS and UKOG.
Civil Claims and Public Law Challenges
Our Civil Liberties and Public Law barristers can assist solicitors and campaigners with:
- Upholding protestors' rights under Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- Challenging the excessive or unlawful use of force by police officers
- Obtaining apologies
- Securing compensation where authorities and companies have acted unlawfully
- Changes to police practice through disciplinary and civil actions against the police
- Judicial review proceedings where the law has been misapplied
- Pre-emptively, or after the event, public law challenges to unlawful arrests, police decisions to take DNA, fingerprints or photos, decisions to retain or disclose sensitive personal information to third parties on criminal records checks for employers, or visa applications
- Pre-litigation advice to campaigners on criminal and civil liability for direct action protests.
- Planning and environmental law challenges and injunctions on behalf of campaigners to prevent unlawful development and climate change emissions
To contact the Civil Liberties Clerks, please email email@example.com or phone +44 (0)20 7993 7600
Defending protestors in criminal proceedings
Our criminal defence protest law barristers are nationally renowned for representing protesters in the criminal courts alongside the top ranked protest solicitors in the UK. They have gathered a wealth of knowledge from many of the most high profile protest cases in recent years.
In 2015 our crime team won the Legal 500 Crime Set of the Year Award and we have since been shortlisted for the award a further two times.
Our criminal defence team has secured a number of acquittals including for Greenpeace, Occupy protestors, anti-fracking protestors, anti-racism demonstrators and many more (see examples of notable cases below).
How our criminal defence protest specialists can help:
- Scrutinising and challenging police powers (e.g. stop and search) or CPS decisions
- Representing defendants in court charged with public order offences
- Mobilising human rights arguments during criminal trials
- Defences of justification on the basis of prevention of crime and necessity
INEOS vs Persons Unknown  EWCA Civ 515
We represented environmental campaigners in this successful complex challenge against a High Court injunction brought by the fracking company, INEOS, and designed to deter protest against fracking. This injunction was described as one of the most wide-ranging ever granted against protestors. The case went to the Court of Appeal on a point of principle about suing “persons unknown”. The judgment recognised the serious chilling effect of the INEOS injunction on civil liberties and makes clear that the Court will intervene to prevent powerful companies like INEOS using draconian injunctions to intimidate and deter people from participating in lawful protest against fracking. Reported in Independent and Drill or Drop.
‘Stansted 15’ avoid custodial sentence following conviction in 2018 for Endangering Safety at an Aerodrome
In 2018 the ‘Stansted 15’ took action to prevent a deportation flight removing people from the UK and taking them to countries where their lives were at risk due to their sexuality. Following trial, these fifteen defendants were convicted of ‘Endangering Safety at an Aerodrome’. We represented the protestors at the appeal, and after hearing mitigation, the trial judge was persuaded that although this action was an offence which would normally carry a custodial sentence, none of the defendants would be sent to prison in light of their Article 10 and 11 rights under the ECHR and their positive good character. Reported in BBC and Guardian.
UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) v Persons Unknown  EWHC 2252 (Ch)
Represented six environmental campaigners who took legal action in high-profile challenge seeking to overturn a broad injunction sought by UK Oil and Gas against “persons unknown”, prohibiting lawful acts of protest against fracking activities. Reported in Guardian and Drill or Drop.
Supreme Court challenge to fracking permission given to Cuadrilla
Garden Court counsel are representing anti-fracking campaigner, Gayzer Frackman, in his Supreme Court challenge to fracking permission given to Cuadrilla in Lancashire. If the appeal to the Supreme Court is successful, the Government will have to reconsider its decision to approve fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire. Furthermore, the Government may be forced to strengthen its regulatory regime for fracking and review other grants of permission for fracking elsewhere in the country. Permission is awaited from the Supreme Court to pursue the challenge. Reported in BBC and Guardian.
‘Rotherham 12’ acquitted of violent disorder against far-right extremists
Twelve Asian defendants were charged with violent disorder after a peaceful anti-fascist demonstration was directed into the path of vicious far-right football hooligans by South Yorkshire police. Ten of the twelve defendants were unanimously acquitted by a jury following a trial in October 2016, three of whom were represented by Garden Court counsel. Not Guilty verdicts were also entered against the remaining two, both represented by Garden Court, after further material came to light affecting the credibility of a key police witness.
Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) protestors who acted to stop sale of illegal weapons acquitted
Eight protesters who blocked roads outside the DSEI arms fair in 2015 were found not guilty. The defendants argued that they were acting to prevent the illegal sale of torture equipment and weapons sold to countries that abused human rights. Garden Court represented one of the defendants. The judge ruled that the court had heard clear and unchallenged evidence relating to unlawful arms sales at previous (DSEI) events and that the prosecution had therefore failed to show that the defendants were not acting to prevent greater crimes. Reported in Guardian and Independent.
Occupy Protest acquittals
Garden Court represented four protestors from Occupy Democracy who were cleared of charges relating to a protest in Parliament Square in October 2014. The four were part of a group of protestors who were arrested after sitting on a tarpaulin and were charged with an offence of keeping in place ‘sleeping equipment’ in Parliament Square Gardens. This case was one of the first mass arrests under the PRSRA 2011 legislation governing Parliament Square. Following the judgment, the CPS offered no evidence against a further eight defendants facing similar charges. Reported in London Evening Standard.