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Garden Court barrister threatened with arrest if he wrote ‘not my King’ on blank sheet of paper

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Footage of incident goes viral

A barrister who held up a blank piece of paper at Parliament Square in London claims he was told he risked being arrested if he wrote “not my king” on it.

Paul Powlesland, a tenant at Garden Court Chambers who specialises in, among other things, protest rights, is understood to have travelled into the capital on Monday after becoming concerned at reports of police targeting members of the public “exercising rights to freedom of speech”, PA news agency reports.

Powlesland, 36, posted a clip of part of his interaction with a police officer on Twitter.

The barrister can be heard asking the the officer, “Why would you ask for my details?”. The officer responds, “I wanted to make sure you didn’t have bail conditions”, before adding: “You said you were going to write stuff on it, that may offend people, around the King. It may offend someone.”

Powlesland says, “Who’s that going to offend?”, to which the officer responds: “I don’t know, someone may be offended by it”.

Reacting to the post, criminal law specialist and author Secret Barrister wrote: “FREE LEGAL OPINION: This would not constitute an offence under the Public Order Act. And it is deeply troubling that any police officer would think that it might.”

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Powlesland was not arrested, but said that his interaction had only strengthened his feelings. “It feels like a very odd time, when there does seem to be… using the respect that is due to the Queen and her death, as a way of silencing any dissent over Charles’s accession”, he told PA.

He added: “Like most British people, I was vaguely ambivalent to the monarchy. But this week, and what’s been happening, has made me republican. One of the many things that makes me proud to be British is our freedom of speech. It’s one of our most precious and sacred rights and it’s far more precious to me than the Royal Family is.”

The Metropolitan Police’s deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said on Monday:

“We’re aware of a video online showing an officer speaking with a member of the public outside the Palace of Westminster earlier today. The public absolutely have a right to protest and we have been making this clear to all officers involved in the extraordinary policing operation currently in place and we will continue to do so. However, the overwhelming majority of interactions between officers and the public at this time have been positive as people have come to the Capital to mourn the loss of Her Late Majesty the Queen.”

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68 Comments

Hackaforte

Ye gods, one foul-up by a poorly-trained plod and he’s acting as though the Stasi are under the beds. Get a grip, man.

Republica

There have been arrests, so it’s not a one off.

Hackaforte

All (as far as I’m aware) of whom have been promptly de-arrested once somebody has pointed out to the relevant woodentops that distasteful does not equate to illegal.

Hello

But the process has stopped the protest and blocked the right of free speech. So do not even try to minimise it.

Black Tie

Calm down dear

Anon

Not true, two people have already been charged with public order offences for what would otherwise constitute normal peaceful protest.

Anon 2

It is puerile to equate denial of freedom of speech with denial of right to upset and offend people, at a time when then they are suffering grief.
If you lived in a country which actually denied “freedom of fpeech”, you would wet yourself.

Scep Tick

To be fair, it would normally be considered normal peaceful protest to hold up placards condemning, say, sexual abuse by Roman Catholic bishops at a protest march.

It might however be considered behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace if it were done at the funeral of a Roman Catholic bishop.

What's the gender neutral term for the monarch?

Though, Scep Tick, there has not been any funeral yet and most of the arrests were at proclamations which involved the appointment of the head of state as opposed to any event marking the death of the previous undeserved occupant of that role.

Anonymous

Sorry what “freedom of speech”? If a Muslim speak their mind he’s/ she’s/they/it etc will be branded a terrorist. Ukraine has been invaded by Russia, everyone’s putting flags up to support Ukraine, but Palestinian are being killed daily for years, don’t they deserve to live? Innocent Russians who didn’t want a war, are dying by Ukraine, no support for them, “Freedom of speech” is only for the select few, no media channel reported the anti vaccine protest, funny how the killer virus has stop in its tracks.
The queen has died, whether you liked her or not, let’s all respect the fact a human has died, let’s not use the dead to get our 15 minds of fame, we will die too one day, do we want a drama on our funeral? There’s other days to use the “freedom of speech” act

Archibald O'Pomposity

Your paragraph is an incoherent sandwich, with a reminder to respect the sanctity of life being the upper and lower slices of bread, and a babble of inane, meaningless drivel being the filling. But I can see that you’re upset about the drama caused by the upcoming Queen’s funeral, and I share your compassion. But what exactly is your point?

Anonymous

I defend in free speech cases. But before you attack our system, go to Russia and protest against Mr Putin – and see if your return ticket proves to be an unnecessary expense.

Roy G Biv

“We are not as bad as Russia in silencing free speech” is hardly a great argument.

Archibald O'Pomposity

I’m not convinced you’re a lawyer. Why would you use the strawman of countries like Russia as a contrast to concerning free speech threats in the UK?

Anon

People have way too much time on their hands

Anon

There will never be too much time for protesting the basic human right of free speech and free expression. You merely take it for granted because you live in the UK. Other people around the world die for it every day.

Citizen Tom

Certainly all the royals do. By definition, and at our expense.

Anonymous

The treatment of valid protest against the monarchy has been a disgrace, particularly at proclamation events, which focus on the King not the dead Queen. Republicans make up about 25% of the population and far more in Scotland and Northern Ireland. That their very view offends some Daily Mail reading Boomers is not a reason to arrest them or to prevent expression of disquiet at the nonsense of the last week. The police are behaving more like they are in Russia than the UK

Anonnnn

Okay Paul – I’m sure you won’t ever apply for KC and all the higher fees/kudos that goes with it.

I don’t understand how a person can choose to attend Oxbridge over other unis, choose to enter a profession that still requires dining + people buying £400 horsehair wigs, then complain publicly about how horrible and elitist the world is.

Anon

This is a total straw man response, he is not protesting elitism he is highlighting that our right to free speech is being impinged because those protesting the king are being arrested or threatened with as much.

Frees Peach? Really?

Wait to see what happens to people who have little sympathy for barristers with multiple income streams going on strike and claiming they live in ‘poverty’

Archibald O'Pomposity

There seem to be a number of straw men below the line here – and elsewhere in LC – but that’s partly a function of the fact that many of the readers are students.

What's the gender neutral term for the monarch?

It is more than past the stage that English counsel should be entitled to adopted the style SC if they choose instead of KC as in other common law nations.

Alan

I hope they lock him, up and throw away the key. Has he, a barrister, not heard of treason, and if not that then lying? King Charles is very much his King.

Hackaforte

Come off it, Alan, you’re embarrassing yourself.

Go and have a look at the Treason Act before throwing the word around.

Topkek

Huh? Calm down, Stalin.

Anon

You’re well over 350 years late with this comment

Alan

Good to see the woke mafia hitmen (sorry, “hitpeople”, forgive me) out in force. Clearly asking for a little respect for a man who has served this country unfailingly his entire life at a time of personal and national mourning is too much to ask for the loony left.

Touché

Sounds like you’re the woke one poppet, offended should anyone dare express any disdain for His Majesty and threatening them with treason! I’m quaking in my boots

Nested Pony

Are you trying to restore balance to the universe by answering this barrister’s republican hissy fit with a monarchist hissy fit?

A

The slow realisation that Alan is definitely having us all on is actually quite sad.. at times I felt like I was chatting with my long-gone deranged grandfather

Monarchist In Favour Of Free Speech

Is there any evidence that the police are acting on the instructions of the monarchy to quash dissent? I’m not aware of any. Surely interaction would be more likely to make you anti-police than anti-monarchy?

Cambridge PhD

It’s events like this will provide more evidence as to why the UK must have a written constitution that is worth more than an A4 piece of paper; one which can be used in court against these cretins. I had a conversation with an American physicist today over lunch on this:

1, The police enforce the commands of legislation which constrain our actions, they do not enforce ‘manners’, ‘customs’;

2, It is entirely legal for someone to shout at Prince Andrew at a public funeral despite how distasteful to widely held beliefs of what constitutes ‘manners’;

3, My friend raised the example of the hecklers at the recent Biden rally in Philadelphia + I said the example here when Boris Johnson left Westminster Abbey and was booed.

Conclusion: the police are out of control, people whose lives, status and so on that exist wholly in the public sphere want to maintain that existence at the expense of a lack of public scrutiny.

Action contradicting widely held views on manners etc ≠ acts that are illegal

Our brain dead police need to learn this.

Anon

They are charging people based on very vague public order legislation – the man arrested in Scotland for heckling Andrew has now been charged with the reasons given to the media as follows: “Under Scottish law, someone can be charged with a public order offence of breaching the peace if their behaviour is disorderly and could have a negative effect on those who witness it such as swearing or shouting”.

It’s an absolute disgrace and affront to our fundamental rights and I hope some excellent barristers pick up these cases pro bono and get them thrown out.

Anonymous

A written constitution would not solve the problem, if you envisage one where Parliament is entitled to make laws as it pleases. Because Parliament passed the Public Order Act 1986, with the offence in section 5 of using abusive words or behaviour within the sight of someone likely to be caused harassment, alarm of distress. Words like ‘abusive’, ‘alarm’ and ‘distress’ are all concepts that import society’s customs and manners, because what is abusive or liable to cause alarm or distress is influenced by the accepted standards of the day.

Alan

I don’t disagree with what you say with regards to vacuous fame hungry “celebrities”, who we must endure. However, the error you make here is that King Charles has no such choice. Much like his mother, the late Queen, his fame is due to his position which was not a choice, but by birth, and innate desire to fulfil his obligation to the nation. How can it be fine to assault and abuse someone trying to undertake one of the most difficult jobs in the world whilst simultaneously suffering his own grief. This person is beyond the pale, and many would say the King is well within his rights to exact full punishment on him.

Harry

Charles most definitely has a choice. He can step down from what he was ‘born’ into. As can all the others

Alan

And throw the country into a constitutional crisis, after 70 years of continuity? How exactly would that be the right thing to do?

Northern

I think you’ll find most working class people don’t care about the royal family queen .king hangers on we are not a royalist country even if the establishment tells you everyday we are because god forbid we found another Cromwell who’d look after the very people they keep saying their untrusted to do so 5th richest country in the world and poverty at an all time high I think there’s more important things that need rectifying than who the establishment wish to bottom feed off

Alan

Aside from suggesting you familiarise yourself with full stops, please point me to the survey you are trying on to make this assertion.

Citizen Tom

An imbecile from birth, set to be a future head of state by a toadying arrangement unfit for any modern state. It’s a crying shame to be British in 2022.

Alan

Feel free to leave. I can help you pack if you wish.

Puzzled by a PhD's obtuseness

What about breach of the peace? So far as I know it’s not a criminal offence but can lawfully result in arrest and – after binding over by a court – can lead to punishment, including imprisonment, if the conduct continues.

Articles 10 and 11 are qualified rights. They both carry qualifications in respect of public disorder.

Cambridge PhD

I do follow your reasoning but this is beyond breach of the peace and the police do misuse it but we are approaching the same object from different angles. Proper constitutional safeguards that codify the right of thought/speech/etc. etc. allow for these type of actions to be tested properly in a courtroom and not simply the ‘de-arrested’ bs PR rubbish the police publish. There won’t be any judicial review, rather it’ll be forgotten by next week. Our rights need to be enshrined through codification/cases that put even the dimmest police officer in their place.

Anon

I don’t agree with the actions of the police. Free speech is, after all free speech, however unpalatable. But, frankly, protest of this kind at this time – the death of an undeniably devoted public servant and the accession of a son grieving his mother – is in extraordinarily bad taste and, in my view, despicable. It also, I think, displays the very antithesis of the good judgment expected of barristers.

That leads me to my second point. There are, in my view, far too many barristers with open political positions and objectives, marauding as crusaders of justice. Our job as barristers is to take a client’s case, whatever that might be, and represent it in the best way possible. It is not to coalesce into left-wing juggernaut sets and seek to change the law so that it aligns with openly stated political positions. If you want to change the law, become a politician.

Muh ‘Axsess 2 Juztiss’

Exactly – screaming like a banshee in the streets gets a cause nowhere. Protesters can look unhinged and lose peoples’ trust because they are angry and wholly ruled by their emotions.

The most intelligent know that to really change the the world, you need to be a lobbyist, a politician actually making the laws or indeed, the good wife of either of those.

Cambridge PhD

So yes, your argument is that subjective “extraordinarily bad taste” [custom] trumps legal rights that subjects possess. Nice one.

Alan

Finally a voice of reason.

Al

That is an interesting position; and I think it’s a reasonable argument. I don’t however agree with it; subject to the following caveats.

Barristers are just members of society, so we can of course hold views on subjects. The issue is, can we publicly articulate those views?

I would say yes. Although that is subject to the idea (and indeed the Handbook) that we should not do anything that appears to compromise our independence. That does create a tension.

I have pretty strong views on a particular topic; and I speak very publicly about those views. I do however also recognise the importance of cab rank. So I have also made it clear that whatever my own views, I would not depart from that principle. And I have had to demonstrate that in practice. Because I am perceived to have a certain expertise in some areas, I do get instructions from ‘the opposition’ when they are on the receiving end as it were. And I do do everything within the rules to put forward the best case I can for them; even if a ‘victory’ goes against everything I stand for.

I also think it is ok for lawyers to agitate for changes in the law. Whether that be lobbying and campaigning generally; or the strategic use of litigation.

As I stuck up on chambers website:

“The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law.”

And I really believe that.

Citizen Tom

Isn’t your suggestion that Elizabeth Windsor was a “devoted public servant” deeply political. Popular sentiment doesn’t have to be innately just. Hitler, Mussolini, Putin…all and many others of their ilk were, and are, supported by the unthinking masses. Monarchies everywhere are expensive, divisive, undemocratic and deeply harmful to the nations over which they preside. To support them in any way is a political act, just as much as opposing them is.

Adrian

There is NO legal right to freedom of speech in this country. Many assume the right to expression covers it where infact it does not. There are so many sub sections making what you say illegal they may as well just make freedom of speech illegal

Not convinced

Hmm. Bit selective.

Most would have no problem with the arrest of shouters or sign wavers – in public places – at the funerals or memorial services of any person, or outside abortion clinics, or hospitals (Charlie’s Army 🤦🏻‍♂️etc.) and so on, for breach of the peace.

Why should people suppose they can provoke anger and disorder to make their point?

WTF do such people expect?

They can still speak, just in circumstances that won’t lead to a breach of the peace.

GRRM

‘…silencing any dissent over Charles’s accession’

Does Paul Powlesland have another claimant in mind? Is the nation to decend into civil war over the succession? Will William call his new found Welsh levees and declare for Charles?

GRRM

‘…silencing any dissent over Charles’s accession’

Does Paul Powlesland have another claimant in mind? Is the nation to descend into civil war over the succession? Will William call his new found Welsh levees and declare for Charles?

There

I suggest no-one as the alternative. Giving financial privileges and political power to someone on the basis of nothing other than their parentage is a disgrace in the 21st century.

Contempt of Court = Prison

What ‘freedom of speech’?

If a person in court said “You are not my judge” to the judge and held up a piece of paper saying that, he wouldn’t be held up as a martyr by the lawyers present – he would be thoroughly laughed at by them

Rumpole

It would have to be someone from a woke barristers’ chambers like Garden Court to carry a banner on such an occasion

Abdabs

Presumably this barrister will not seek to be Kings Counsel or a Judge which involves swearing an allegiance to the Crown. A short lived career ahead….

Anonymous

I just this as a very easy way to reduce competition for anyone who does want to become a judge/KC?

Most legal career advice out there is aimed at reducing the competition for lawyers’ kids to become lawyers too.

Do the opposite of what they say and follow what they actually do.

Alan

All criticism of the monarchy should be uniformly banned. Don’t people know how much the crown has done for them? The people owe the crown everything.

I Once Appeared On Catchphrase

His needy trolling is getting weaker by the post.

Alan

Not me, but I agree. Summary execution is too good for that rabble.

I One Appeared On Catchphrase

You need better material.

Lawyer

The funeral is next week. Hth

S L F important

Sometimes you should show respect, especially if you expect respect to be shown.

Time and a place for everything.

But if you must, knock yourself out, but don’t be upset if someone helps you.

JT

If this guy is a Barrister, he would have taken the Oath of Allegiance to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs, and successors, according to law.
Although I am not against the freedom of speech, are his actions now going against that Oath of Allegiance?

Anonymous

No he did not have to take that oath when called. He was just called.

S L F Important

Let’s enshrine the right to Hypocrisy in statute.

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