Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

WRITTEN EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY UK LAWYERS FOR ISRAEL (CJC 03)

1. This submission is made by UK Lawyers for Israel, a voluntary association of lawyers who seek to support Israel in relation to legal matters.

2. We would like to propose an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in order to give a clear civil right of action to those adversely affected by an aggravated trespass, such as the disruption of an artistic performance. Specifically, we propose the addition of a further subsection to section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 as follows:

(6) A contravention of subsection (1) shall be actionable in civil proceedings at the suit of a person adversely affected by it, subject to the defences and other incidents applying to actions for breach of statutory duty.

3. Performances by Israeli performers and talks by Israeli lecturers have regularly been disrupted in recent years. The disruption of a performance by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in September 2011 was a typical example. Eye-witness accounts and videos posted on the Internet convey the threatening and dangerous atmosphere of such occasions:

4. A BBC report quoted Theartsdesk.com music reviewer, Igor Toronyi-Lalic, saying: "The whole hall was groaning and trying to slow clap them out. It had the atmosphere of a riot": see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14756736 .

5. Another eye-witness wrote: " This created a most tense and hostile atmosphere throughout the several disruptions. Each time the chanting and shouting broke out, my eleven-year-old grandson became very upset, and kept saying he wanted to go home. The reaction of the vast majority of music-lovers, who wanted to hear the music in peace, created an understandable sense of frustration and anger throughout the Hall and posed a significant threat to public order. From where I was sitting in the circle, it occurred to me how easily an enraged member of the audience could have pushed one or more of those protesting in the front row over the balcony."

6. Another wrote: " We witnessed elderly gentlemen who wished nothing else, but to enjoy an evening of music by one of the most prominent orchestras led by its distinguished maestro, having to argue with Neanderthals to such extent that one of them felt the need to physically try to remove them from the seats resulting in slaps on the heads."

7. Another wrote: "I felt extremely intimidated by the whole experience".

8. Video recordings of these incidents can viewed on the Internet at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIrLrGVfcr4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlHWiykc-24

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrfH9GMM_iE&NR=1

http://richardmillett.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/why-did-the-bbc-pull-last-nights-live-transmission-of-the-israeli-philharmonic-orchestra-at-the-proms/

http://hurryupharry.org/2011/09/02/mashing-together-philistinism-with-israel-intolerance

9. We have no doubt that such conduct amounts to aggravated trespass contrary to section 68(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This offence is committed where a person trespasses on land and does anything there which is intended by him to have the effect of disrupting a lawful activity in which persons are engaging on that land. Even if those disrupting the performance had tickets, they were trespassers because they were permitted to enter the Hall for the purpose of listening to and watching the performance, not for the purpose of disrupting it.

10. It is well established that a person is a trespasser if he is permitted to enter premises for one purpose but enters them for a different purpose: R v Jones and Smith [1976] 1 WLR 672. In Geary v Wetherspoon [2011] EWHC 1506 the Court quoted the well known dictum of Lord Justice Scrutton in The Calgarth [1927] P 93: "When you invite a person into your house to use the staircase, you do not invite him to slide down the banisters, you invite him to use the staircase in the ordinary way in which it is used."

11. However, despite a considerable number of complaints from members of the audience, and a letter from ourselves identifying several of those who led the disruption, the police declined to prosecute, on the ground that the Royal Albert Hall management had not asked them to act.

12. Disruption of various subsequent performances by Israeli artistes was reduced (but not prevented) by a large (and no doubt expensive) police presence outside the venues together with private security inside the venues. The cost of private security is normally borne by the venue or promoter and it appears that this led to the cancellation of a performance by the Israeli dance company, Batsheva, in Brighton (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/88066/security%E2%80%99-scuppers-israel-dance-event-brighton). Again, despite the disruption of several performances, the police forces concerned have not prosecuted those responsible.

13. Lectures by Israelis have also been disrupted in various cities around the UK.

14. We respectfully submit that a civil right of action would enable those affected by this kind of disruption, such as members of the audience, to obtain a remedy, whether or not the police prosecute, and this would in turn lead to a reduction of the disruption and the threat of disruption, and less need for special security arrangements. Although our association’s concern is with the impact on matters connected with Israel, the issue is of course a broader one, applying to disruption for any political or other purpose.

15. We would emphasise that we are not seeking to prevent demonstrations outside a venue, or even inside a venue, where they do not disrupt a performance or other lawful activity. We are merely seeking to provide a civil right of action for what is already a crime. We have no objection to protesters communicating their criticism of Israel or any other country or organisation in a lawful way; but disrupting an artistic performance or lecture crosses a red line, and we suggest that there should be an effective remedy available to those affected.

16. We would add that the legitimacy of the prohibition in section 68 was emphatically affirmed by the Supreme Court in the recent case Richardson v DPP http://supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2012_0198_Judgment.pdf.

March 2014 (Revised) 

Prepared 20th March 2014