Tag Archives: law

Policing public protests and protest law

Recent news coverage suggests that the Metropolitan Police  will be pushing for the prosecution of the more than 1,100 people arrested during last month’s Extinction Rebellion protests.

The environmental protests across London caused massive disruption in certain parts of the city. There is a risk that they may be set to spread across other towns and cities over the coming weeks and months.

Public protest has always been a legitimate and important part of the democratic process.  As such, these rights are enshrined in law.

An important question remains, howver.  How do the police balance the right to protest against the rights of other people to go about their lives unimpeded?

protest law

Why have people been protesting?

Extinction Rebellion has organised the protests.   This is a group concerned about the environmental destruction of our planet.

Frustrated that other attempts to force change in governmental behaviour have failed, they have resorted to a new form of peaceful protest.  On its website the group claims:

‘Civil disobedience works when it’s peaceful, respectful, disruptive and undertaken en masse. We don’t want to disrupt people, but our Government’s failure over the last 30 years leaves us no choice. If we had functioning democracies, we wouldn’t need to. We’ve tried petitions, marches, letters, reports, papers, meetings, even direct actions; and emissions have continued to rise. Governments prioritise the short term interests of the economic elites, so to get their attention, we have to disrupt the economy. They have left us with no other option.’

 In London the protesters blocked major roads and bridges, leading to significant chaos and disruption.

What was the police response?

The Metropolitan Police set out the dilemma during the protest in this way:

‘The serious disruption the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations are causing to people in central London and beyond is unacceptable and we completely understand the concern it is causing to those who are disrupted by it.

 Ultimately, the Met has a duty to balance the rights of those engaged in protest and who are acting within the law, against the needs and rights of Londoners to go about their daily lives with minimum disruption. Where people are not acting within the law we continue to arrest them, and we anticipate arrests continuing to rise. We are also working closely with partner agencies, Transport for London, British Transport Police, City of London Police, City of Westminster and the Mayor’s Office, as well as the business community.

 …we will have had more than 1,000 officers on the streets policing the demonstrations. This is putting a strain on the Met and we have now asked officers on the boroughs to work 12-hour shifts; we have cancelled rest days and our Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF) have had their leave cancelled. This allows us to free up significant numbers of officers whilst responding to local policing. We would also like to reassure people that we have ring-fenced the VCTF so we retain the capacity to deal with any unrelated violent incidents.

However, the protesters need to understand that their demonstration is meaning officers are being diverted away from their core local duties that help keep London safe and that this will have implications in the weeks and months beyond this protest as officers take back leave and the cost of overtime.’

Was anyone being arrested?

 It is an almost unique feature of this protest that people are aware of the risk of arrest and were willing to be arrested – this ironically presents an incredibly difficult policing challenge.

On this issue the police said at one stage:

‘…we have arrested more than 460 people, the large majority for breach of Section 14 [of the Public Order Act 1986) and obstruction of the highway. Of those arrested, so far eight people have been charged with those offences. At this stage it is better for us to keep our resources and custody capacity moving and flexible than leave protesters sitting in cells for up to 12 hours before going to court for what, although highly disruptive, are lower level offences.

So everyone else arrested has been released under investigation and will be brought back to be formally interviewed and charged as appropriate in due course. We are aware that means some protesters immediately return to the area to resume their activities; those people will be arrested again.’ (By Saturday 20th April the number of arrests had risen to almost 800, and eventually to over 1100).

Will all those people be prosecuted?

Although this still remains to be seen, it is clear that the police wish all those they believe to have been involved in illegal activities to face court proceedings.  This in turn could lead to any number of contested prosecutions that would in turn place an immense strain on the criminal justice system.

As a result, many commentators think that those released under investigation will face no further action.

Are there any legal defences to these charges?

There are several defences potentially available.  The right to protest peacefully is not an absolute one.  Case law is generally unhelpful. There are some developing areas of legal challenge and these are the ones that defence lawyers will be concentrating their efforts on. Law is a living instrument and must develop as society responds to concerns such as the ones raised by these protesters.

We anticipate that there will be a good number of legal challenges flowing from these protests.

People must, however, be prepared to face arrest, prosecution and possibly a criminal record and must individually decide whether that is a price worth paying.

Contact a specialist in protest law

protest law solicitor
Kevin Tomlinson

Our staff have a wealth of experience dealing with a wide range of protest law related offences.

Chesterfield crime solicitor David Gittins recently successfully defended an individual in a multi-defendant trial charged with anti-fracking protests.

Gavin Haigh

Both Kevin Tomlinson and Gavin Haigh continue to be contacted by members of protest groups in order to advise and assist individuals across the country.

Rob Lowe

Clients are impressed with the dedication of both Gavin and Kevin to their defence.  We have a willingness to visit the site of any allegations where necessary.

David Gittins

On occasion this has included standing up to landowners who attempt in intimidate them and hinder the preparation of cases.  Their representation of individuals means that they are regularly recommended within the Protest Community.

Protest law is an exceptionally complicated area of law but our solicitors David, Kevin, Gavin who are ably assisted by Chesterfield accredited police station representative Rob Lowe have a history of successfully representing people accused following a wide range of protests including:

  • Anti-fur protests
  • Anti-hunt protestors
  • Aggravated trespass offences
  • Protecting Badger Setts
  • Obstruction of the Highway offences
  • Anti-fracking protests
  • Animal right activists
  • climate change protests
  • international law and human rights protests, such against use of certain plant machinery in palestine

The types of cases dealt with include:

  • aggravated trespass
  • obstruction of highway
  • s241 TULRA 1992 (
  • s 14 Public Order Act (conditions on assemblies and processions)
  • criminal damage
  • public order offences

Advice in police interview is always be FREE OF CHARGE and our attendance will always be of value to you.

If you face proceedings before the Magistrates’ or Crown Court it may well be that legal aid is available to assist with your representation.

Please contact our Chesterfield office on 01246 387999 for expert protest law advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

protest law
VHS Fletchers Chesterfield



Drones and the Law – What you need to know

Drones and the Law

Unsurprisingly, here is a legal framework that governs the use of drones.  A number of different drones are available for the public to buy.  There are a number of potential risks to ownership, and it would be helpful for any owner to know the relevant information about drones and the law, including an owner’s responsibilities and restrictions on their use.

Drones are again making the news with stories of substantial flight disruptions caused by drones being flown close to airports or the steps being taken to stop drones flying contraband into prison.

What are drones?

A ‘Drone’ is any object that can be flown without a human pilot. The definition ranges from armed technologies used in military operations to smaller gadgets that any of us can buy.

drones and the lawIt is the second category that will be the focus of this article. These items are controlled remotely from either a handset or mobile phone.  They may also have a camera attached which provides a live-feed to the controller or can take still photography.

At their best they provide educational, professional and leisure pursuits. Various models are available which will vary in size, speed, range and price.

When do drones become a problem?

Drones become a problem when they interfere with other objects using the same airspace. For example, they can present a problem for both military and civilian aircraft. Although they are of relatively small size, a collision can have disastrous consequences. Such incidents are most likely to happen when drones are flown too high or too close to areas where aircraft are taking off and landing frequently.

What are the rules?

If you have bought a drone for personal use, then law imposes some responsibilities relating to your use of that drone.  Any breach of these duties can result in your prosecution.

drones and the lawIt is advisable to consult the Civilian Aviation Authority Air Navigation Order 2016, specifically Articles 94, 95 and 241.  You can download the ‘Drone Code’ here.

You must understand your essential duties as a drone owner, many of which are common sense:

  • know how to fly your drone safely, and do so within the law
  • understand that the operator is legally responsible for every flight
  • keep your drone in sight at all times – stay below 400ft or 120m
  • don’t fly your drone over or within 150m of a congested area or organised open air assemblies of more than 1000 people
  • never fly within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building not under your control
  • ensure any images you obtain using the drone do not break privacy laws
  • avoid collisions – you should never fly a drone near an airport or close to aircraft.

One important aspect of drones and the law is that it is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of any aircraft in flight.

If you break the rules, you could threaten lives and also face prosecution.  In some cases this can result in imprisonment or a substantial fine.

For example, anybody caught breaching the rules in relation to airport boundaries could be charged with ‘recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft’ and face a fine of up to £2500 or up to 5 years in prison.

Are there extra rules when using drones for commercial purposes?

It may be that you intend to use a drone for commercial purposes.  For example, an estate agent might wish to take aerial video or photographs of properties for sale.

If this is the case then then permission must be sought from the Civilian Aviation Authority. It is also expected that you will attend an accredited course which will test your knowledge of and competence with drones.

drones and the law

What about cross-overs into the military’s use of drones?

Any drone use completed for the Ministry of Defence is regulated by the Military Aviation Authority.  This might include tasks such as surveys at height, photography and other multimedia activities.  Anyone likely to undertake such work should look at Regulatory Articles 1600, 2320 and 2321 for specific requirements.

New government plans

Over the summer of 2018 the Government launched a public consultation on new proposals that include:

  • whether the 1km flight restriction around aerodromes is sufficient
  • police issuing fixed penalty notices to people flouting drone laws
  • new counter-drone technology to protect public events and critical national infrastructure, as well as stopping contraband reaching prisons
  • a minimum age requirement of 18 to be a small drone operator
  • apps upon which flight plans would be uploaded prior to take-off

Fixed penalty notices may be introduced for the following offences:

  • not producing proof of registration at the request of a police constable
  • not producing evidence that a flight plan or other permissions had been obtained or submitted
  • not complying with a police request to land a drone
  • flying a drone without the necessary competency

Drone users in the UK will have to register with the CAA and take online safety awareness tests from November 2019 for drones weighing at least 250g. A failure do do so could lead to a fine of up to £1000.

Drones weighing more than 250g could also be banned from flying near airports, or above 400 ft, in a crackdown on unsafe flying.

Police will also be given new powers to seize and ground drones which may have been used in criminal activity.

The bottom line

Drones can be fun and useful but come with their fair share of responsibilities. If you follow the principles highlighted above, you will be much less likely to fall foul of the rules and regulations governing this exciting new technology.

If, however, you are to be spoken to by any authority for breach of the rules and regulations then you ought to seek advice.  Any interview is likely to be with the intention of considering whether a prosecution ought to be brought before the court.

We offer independent legal advice on drones and the law for such interviews whether in or out of office hours.  Your nearest office can be found here although we provide our services nationwide.

drones and the law
VHS Fletchers offices across the East Midlands

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.


Motoring law solicitor secures suspended sentence.

chesterfield motoring law solicitor
Chesterfield crime and motoring law solicitor Kevin Tomlinson

Chesterfield Crime Solicitor Kevin Tomlinson has a wealth of experience defending motoring law offences.  He is known for his calm and unflappable approach which places clients at ease in what is often an alien environment for them.  These qualities are demonstrated by this particular case.


Kevin was instructed by a client who was accused of drink driving.  She had provided a specimen of breath showing that she was nearly three times the legal drink drive limit.

Investigation of a procedural irregularity

chesterfield motoring law solicitorOur client was prepared to plead guilty to the offence and was seeking advice as to the likely penalty she would receive.  Kevin, however, sought his client’s instructions on the full circumstances of the offending and began to check the evidence that the prosecution had.

While there was no doubt that Kevin’s client had drunk alcohol before driving, the level has to be above the legal limit to drive. in order to convict her of the offence, therefore, the prosecution had to show that the evidence of the breath specimen was reliable.

If you are investigated for drink driving and provide a sample of breath at the police station you will be given a print out of the reading provided by the machine.

In this case, the printout provided to our client showed that there had been an error. The layout of the paperwork appeared to be wrong.  Kevin could not be sure that the breath test had been performed correctly.

At court Kevin spoke with the prosecutor to see if they had the same documentation as his client.   The prosecutor did not.  Their copy of the printout was correct.  It appeared, for whatever reason, that our client’s version had been incorrectly printed.

chesterfield motoring law solicitorKevin then took the time to speak with his client again.  It seemed clear that the machine had been working properly, bearing in mind his client’s instructions about how much she had had to drink and the prosecution copy of the printout.  Further, the decision that she made on plea would be important as the starting point on sentence in her case was a twelve week custodial sentence due to the level of the reading.

Would she choose to try and take advantage of a potential loop hole and risk loss of mitigation and prison if she was found guilty?

Suspended sentence followed a guilty plea

Having taken further instructions, it was clear that our client wanted to plead guilty and not try to challenge the reliability of the machine.

Following her plea, Kevin was able to advance substantial personal mitigation on her behalf which is always more compelling if it follows a guilty plea.  Kevin’s calm and measured approach persuaded the Magistrates that any sentence of imprisonment could be suspended.  In addition to the suspended sentence she also receive the inevitable driving ban.

She was extremely relieved and pleased with the outcome.

You can read more about the importance of an early guilty plea and and an expression of remorse here.

Contact an expert motoring law solicitor

Kevin Tomlinson is based at our Chesterfield office, but is able to provide nationwide advice and representation.  If you wish to instruct Kevin then his contact details can be found here.

We will always advise you as to your entitlement to criminal legal aid to ensure your free representation in the Magistrates’ Court.

You can read more about that here.

Alternatively, if one of our other offices is more convenient then you can find these contact details here.

chesterfield motoring law solicitor

You can also use the contact form below:


Trainee Solicitor at Nottingham Law Centre

As part of his training, trainee solicitor Elliott Moulster has been seconded to work at the Nottingham Law Centre in order to obtain a broad range of experience prior to qualification.

This firm enjoys a close relationship with the Nottingham Law Centre.  Solicitor Andrew Wesley is the chair of the Board of Trustees for the Law Centre, responsible for oversight and some strategic management, in a pro bono role.

nottingham law centreNottingham Law Centre is located directly opposite the Hyson Green Market in Radford, Nottingham.  It specialises in providing free legal advice and representation in the areas of housing law, debt and social security law.  As a result, it advisers try to assist some of the most vulnerable in society.

Elliott has begun to work alongside Diana Bagci who is part of the Law Centre’s Social Security Team, providing particular assistance to the local Roma community.

Elliott has now spent his first week in this busy not for profit organisation.


The week started with introductions to everyone who works and volunteers at the Centre.   Elliott received the warmest of welcomes from everybody that he met.

Before being trusted with providing advice, Elliott began to receive his training.  He had the opportunity to sit in on many client appointments.  What impressed him most about this first day was  the professionalism and empathy that staff members showed when dealing with cases that were both deeply personal and of extreme sensitivity.


After spending Monday meeting clients and advisers, Elliott spent much of Tuesday at Nottingham Law Centre reading some of the relevant law and guidance relating to benefits.

He acquainted himself with the regulations concerning the Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and the rules surrounding other benefits such as Universal Credit.

Elliott had further opportunities to sit in on further client interviews during the course of the day.


Elliott attended a meeting about combating modern slavery in the East Midlands.   This event opened his eyes to the prevalence of such practises in the United Kingdom.  This valuable insight will allow Elliott to help understand the experience of those clients who are victims of modern slavery.

nottingham law centre
Law Centre’s Network logo

The first half of Thursday was spent drafting a detailed letter to the Social Security Tribunal. The purpose of this letter was to make representations in support of an application to reconsider a previous decision of the tribunal.  It was believed that the tribunal decision was in error, but that the problem could be rectified.

In the afternoon, Elliott attended a local Community Centre. This was to offer practical advice and assistance to members of the local Roma Community.  Again, he found the experience very educational.  He experienced a culture in some ways different to his own, and appreciated the opportunity to provide advice away from an office setting speaking directly to those in the community.


Unfortunately Elliott was unable to avoid returning to VHS Fletchers today to prepare some of Health and Safety prosecutions that he is working on.  He will, however, return to Nottingham Law Centre next week to begin to provide advice.

Contact Nottingham Law Centre

While we are able to provide you with specialist advice relating to crime, regulatory, road traffic, education and prison law matters, we cannot give you advice on all topics.

As a result, if you require advice about housing law, debt or benefits entitlement then we do not hesitate to recommend the excellent service provided by the Law Centre.

Information about how to contact the Law Centre can be found here.

Crown Court trial avoided – conditional discharge instead

crown court trial drug offences
Crown court litigator Sarah Lees-Collier

Senior crown court litigator Sarah Lees-Collier instructed counsel Harry Hewitt from 5 St Andrews Hill Chambers in a case listed for Crown Court trial at Nottingham Crown Court.  Sarah’s client faced allegations of

  • possession of criminal property
  • abstracting electricity
  • production of cannabis, and
  • supply of cannabis.


The case for the prosecution

The cannabis had been found by police at his home address and was a relatively large amount – 8 ounces or 230 grams in what the police said were single ounce deals.  The police also found large plastic  containers that had traces of cannabis inside along with £2000 cash.  The electricity meter at the address had been bypassed.

Our client also owned a second address.  When this was searched by the police approximately 200 cannabis plants were found growing at the address.  The meter had been bypassed.  The police said that the manner of the bypass was the same as at the other address.  Two others were arrested at this address.

Finally, when our client’s phone was examined by the police there were a large number of photographs of cannabis plants being grown.

Our client’s defence at Crown Court Trial

Our client accepted possession of the cannabis and the abstraction of electricity at his home address.  He denied responsibility for any of the other offences and maintained the following:


  • the cannabis seized from his home address was his and was for personal use
  • he used about four to six ounces of cannabis per week as self-medication for pain relief
  • it was boiled it in a bain-marie and drank it with milk
  • this had been given to the police when they came to his home, along with the plastic tubs which he had used to store the cannabis in
  • the £2,000 cash was legitimate cash from his businesses from which he earned at least £200 000 per year.
  • he denied knowing that cannabis was being grown at his second address
  • he denied knowledge of the photos on his phone

crown court trial drug offencesIn order to prepare the case for trial, Sarah instructed expert witnesses Emmersons Associates to inspect the electricity meters to look for similarities.  The police has mislaid one of the meters so  the impact of any examination was limited.

Medical evidence was obtained outlining the various ailments that our client suffered from and which cannabis was said to alleviate.

Pleas accepted and conditional discharge followed

Once the case was fully prepared and the helpful evidence served on the prosecution, we reminded the prosecution that our client was offering pleas to simple possession of cannabis and abstracting electricity.  This time the pleas were accepted.

Our client was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge for both offences.

Confiscation proceedings avoided

The fact that we put the prosecution in a position where the offered pleas were accepted meant that our client avoided an almost inevitable prison sentence and confiscation proceedings.  Had be been convicted of any of the other offences then the prosecution would have examined his finances for the 6 years prior to the offence in order to try and confiscate assets that could not easily be explained.

Instruct an expert for your Crown Court trial

If you wish to instruct Sarah you can contact her on 0115 9599550.  Alternatively, we have specialist Crown Court trial lawyers at each of our offices across the East Midlands.  Find you nearest office here.

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.




Studying and working in the law – advice given to local students

studying law
Education law solicitor Clare Roberts

Education Law and Criminal Defence Solicitor Clare Roberts was welcomed by students at West Bridgford School on the afternoon of Monday 21 September.  Following an invitation she delivered a talk about ‘Routes into Law’ to sixth form students who are contemplating studying law at university.

The talk focused on university applications including what to do if you do not get your expected grades, as well as the proposed changes in the route to qualification as a result of the proposed scrapping of the Legal Practice Course in 2020.

Clare also spoke with students about ‘a day in the life of a solicitor’ so that they had a sense of what a day at court was like, including the unpredictable hours!  Further information about the unpredictable nature of the work can be found here.

The students who attended the talk had lots of questions to ask about studying law at university.  Clare was also able to help with how the training within a firm thereafter will work.

Clare was really impressed with how knowledgeable the students were about their career options but also impressed by the careers education scheme run by Caroline Nolan at the school, which sees a variety of different professionals give talks to sixth form students at the school over the next few months.

Positive feedback for Clare’s presentation

It appears that the students were equally impressed by Clare, who received some positive feedback.  We hope we will be able to assist this and other schools again in the future.

If you think your students might be helped by a presentation such as this one then please contact us using the form below.  It is likely that we will be able to provide a solicitor local to your school or college to assist with any information you might need.


Expert Firearms Team at Wolverhampton Court

expert firearms team
Wolverhampton Crown Court

Senior Crown Court litigator Laura Clarson was responsible for the preparation of a case before Wolverhampton Crown Court recently.  She assembled an expert firearms team of barrister and witness. Her client was acquitted by a unanimous jury verdict following a trial lasting eight days.

Expert Firearms Team

Counsel Nick Doherty from Brudenell Chambers instructed to represent our client. He has a particular specialism in firearms law so was a perfect choice.  Laura also instructed firearms expert David Dyson to comment on the evidence as to whether live or blank ammunition was used.

Laura’s client had a licence to hold firearms.  He was charged with possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of unlawful violence.  It was said that he fired live rounds of ammunition in the middle of the street in which he lived.

Bullet casings recovered from the scene together with evidence of an independent witness which supported this. Laura’s client maintained that no live rounds were discharged from the rifle and that he fired a single blank round in order to scare away two males. They were armed with a machete and a samurai sword.  They were threatening him and his sons with those weapons.

As a result, our client claimed that no unlawful violence was threatened.  He was acting in defence of himself and his family.

Mr Dyson, as a leading expert witness in the field of firearms, was called to give evidence as to the type of ammunition recovered. and was able to give independent opinion supportive of our client’s case.

Undisclosed Evidence

Laura had to actively pursue the prosecution for undisclosed evidence.  A witness had given information to the police that was helpful to her client.  This information had not been disclosed by the police because she wanted to remain anonymous.

Counsel was successful in arguing that her statement should be read to the jury in support of our client’s case.

Judge Dismissive of Defence

Despite direction from the judge that was very dismissive of our client’s case, the jury found him not guilty, presumably on the basis that his actions may have been reasonable in all of the circumstances of the case.

After trial, counsel commented that Laura was ‘a credit to the firm really fights for her clients’.

Contact Us

This case came to us through our consultant solicitor Andrew Broome who has a specialist knowledge of firearms law.  If you are charged with a firearms offence then you will need an expert firearms team to give you advice and representation then we will be able to help.

Please contact Laura on 0115 9599550 or Andrew on 0115 9441233.  Alternatively, they can be emailed here.