Article 77

More On The Replacement Of Belief With Knowledge With Respect To Net Zero.

At this point, I refer to an article by Philip Johnston which appeared in The Daily Telegraph of 25/8/21, entitled, ‘The limits to protest are not for Extinction Rebellion to decide’, and sub-titled, ‘The confusion over how to deal with their disruptive antics shows the danger of our unclear protest laws’. It opens by observing that ‘a hallmark of a free society is the right to legitimate protest’; but that ‘the question arises as to who decides and what are the boundaries of legitimacy’? He then describes the recent demonstrations by XR and recalls that ‘he had imagined that existing statutes covering criminal damage and obstruction of the highway were sufficient to set the parameters for legitimate protest’; and that ‘to over step them was to get nicked’; but that ‘it turns out that matters are not so straight forward’; that ‘in September 2017 a protest was staged at the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair held at the Excel Centre in east London’ that ‘the campaigners opposed to the arms trade, lay down in the middle of the road, attaching themselves to two heavy boxes’; that ‘the police took 90 minutes to remove them’; and that ‘they were arrested and charged with wilful obstruction of the highway’; that ‘at their first trial before magistrates, they were acquitted’; that ‘the district judge said that “given their right to freedom of assembly under the European Convention on Human Rights, the prosecution had to prove that “limited, targetted and peaceful action, which involved an obstruction of the highway, was unreasonable”‘; and that ‘the judge considered a ninety minute disruption to be “reasonable”‘; that ‘at appeal, a higher court reversed that decision’; that ‘it went to the Supreme Court which ruled that the original decision to acquit should stand’; that ‘this so-called Ziegler judgement (named after one of the protestors) is now cited by XR as confirming is legal right to peaceful protest’ and in the “expectation” that the police will respect these rights’; that ‘the Met has thus been placed in an impossible position of trying to navigate between statute laws and court rulings which appear to undermine them’; and that ‘here is another example of judges muddying previously clear waters’.

Philip Johnson goes on to state that ‘Section 137 of the 1980 Highways Act makes it an offence if a person without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs free passage along a highway’ and he notes that ‘while this might be clear enough’, he also observes that ‘in a High Court ruling of 1965, judges held that “lawful excuse” should encompass “reasonableness”‘; and that ‘this test has been applied ever since, even, if it was not what parliament intended’; that ‘the Supreme Court cited this in its Ziegler judgement’; that ‘whether or not the obstruction is an unreasonable use of the highway is a question of fact’; that ‘it depends on all the circumstances including the length of time the obstruction continues, the place where it occurs, the purpose for which it is created, and whether or not it does in fact cause an actual as opposed to a potential obstruction’; that ‘this is the confusing background to the government’s latest efforts to get to grips with the law on protest through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’; and that ‘this measure has itself become a target for militant protest under the menacingly ambiguous Kill the Bill slogan’.

At this point Philip Johnson notes that ‘the question is whether it is even possible to set out the parameters in statute’; that ‘the Bill introduces a new offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance” and includes provisions to make noise unlawful if it is “seriously harmful or oppressive”‘; that ‘as to noise, with reference to Steve Bray and his incessant cry of “Stop Brexit” he notes that ‘the proposed legislation is not the heinous attack on liberty that its detractors claim’; that ‘moreover, whatever XR says, the Supreme Court ruling does not confer carte blanch for a small number of campaigners to stop hundreds of thousands of people from going about their daily lives thinking that they, the campaigners, are entitled to do this because of the alleged (believed) existential nature of the climate threat’; that ‘there is a certain lofty disdain shown by XR protestors towards the rest of us because they believe the causes they espouse are so important that they justify extreme action’; and that ‘they believe that getting to work on time is not so important when the world is about to fry’.

Thus, Philip Johnston recognises ‘nonetheless, that there is a general sense that the balance between the rights of protestors and those of everyone else is seriously out of kilter’; that ‘the Bill will empower the police to clamp down on peaceful gatherings where these might result in “serious disruption to the life of the community”, but what exactly does that mean?’ The police chiefs fear that ‘if they are given discretion to limit protest under certain conditions they will have to adjudicate between protestors, commuters and businesses on the basis of broad and ambiguous criteria”. At this point, Philip Johnson returns ‘to the question of who decides the legitimate boundaries of free protest in a liberal democracy’ and he answers, Parliament’; that ‘MPs and Peers have a duty to get this right’; that ‘the joint parliamentary committee on human rights recently concluded that ‘the Bill contains provisions that are “unnecessary” and disproportionate and confer unacceptably wide and vague powers to curb demonstrations on the Home Secretary and police’; that ‘in passing this new law, therefore Parliament must ensure both clarity and certainty’; that ‘when XR activists return with their superglue and pink tables next year, they, the police, the courts and the rest of us, should know where we all stand’.

However, my position is that this and much else is a hope which cannot be realised unless we cease to expect all problems to be resolved by debate of opinion/counter-opinion, instead of being conclusively resolved by reference to cause-effect knowledge which none can dispute, as has been advocated, explained and exemplified throughout this website. To clarify my position still further, I here state again that freedom of speech is a waste of time and of no use whatsoever, if all which is spoken of is merely belief and counter-belief respectively supported by partially selected facts/ counter-facts, evidence/counter-evidence and news/false-news, no set of which is ever debate-terminating conclusive cause-effect knowledge; and that no more time ought to be spent in attempts to legally preserve the believed rights of belief-only demonstrators to disrupt the known benefits of traffic flow.

8/9/21.

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