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Goldsmiths Law Visiting Professor is The Times Lawyer of the Week for defending landmark case on right to protest

Goldsmiths Law Visiting Professor Kirsty Brimelow QC won national and international acclaim this week for her exceptional defence of the right to protest in the “fracking three” case. Kirsty will be speaking at the next Law information evening at Goldsmiths on 14 November. You can reserve your place here.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, who was recently appointed a Visiting Professor in our Law programme at Goldsmiths, is the UK’s “lawyer of the week” according to The Times (October 25).

Kirsty represented three anti-fracking activists in the Court of Appeal, the first environmental protesters to be imprisoned for protest activities since 1932. She was successful in demonstrating to the Court of Appeal that the sentences imposed were  “manifestly excessive”.

Kirsty relied on jurisprudence that “rights worth having are unruly things”, and that “demonstrations and protests are liable to be a nuisance, they are liable to be tiresome, or they are likely to be perceived as such by people who are out of sympathy for them”, as mentioned in a press released by Doughty Street chambers. The press release added that this case “re-establishes that police and courts must treat peaceful protestors with sensitivity and proportion as protest is a requirement of any civilised democracy”. Kirsty is the head of Doughty Street’s International Human Rights Team, and the Chairwoman of the UK’s Bar Human Rights Committee.

In an interview with the Guardian, Kirsty said: “what the judge has done is [that he has] imprisoned these people for their views and for a peaceful protest and what’s happened as a result is that there has been a chilling effect on protest, and this is something that has not occurred for many, many years.”

In an interview with RT’s “Going Underground” programme (video below, starting at 20:05), Kirsty explained how the right to protest was underpinned by the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and how international human rights jurisprudence had been of assistance in the case. She has also highlighted that the purpose of the public nuisance offence, upon which the conviction of the defendants in this case had been based, had long gone, and reform was urgently required. She pointed to a Law Commission 2015 report in this regard.

The Law Commission report had recommended that:

  • Public nuisance was made a statutory offence. It should cover any conduct which endangers the life, health, property or comfort of a section of the public. Or obstructs them in the exercise of their rights.
  • The new public nuisance offence would require that the defendant either intended or was reckless in the act.

Kirsty’s pioneering human rights work echoes the values, and ambition, of the LLB (Law)  programme at Goldsmiths, which places strong emphasis on social engagement and social justice, and Law as ‘a force for good and change’ as well as a harmonic integration of legal theory and legal practice.

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