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.
— Paul Powlesland (@paulpowlesland) September 12, 2022
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.”
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.”