Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body v The Sovereign Indigenous Peoples of Scotland, 27 July 2016 – removal of protestors camping at the Scottish Parliament

This is an Outer House case in which the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body sought an order for removal of a group of individuals camped within the grounds of the Scottish Parliament.

In a previous judgment Lord Turnbull found that the campers had no lawful right to encroach upon the corporate body’s property. However, a further hearing was granted to consider evidence on the proportionality of granting the order removing the camp to allow the corporate body’s right to the removal order to be assessed against the campers’ right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Decision

After hearing evidence from both parties, Lord Turnbull found that the granting of the order was proportionate. In coming to that conclusion, he rejected the campers’ contention that camping on the property continuously was essential to the protest and noted that the corporate body had been prepared to discuss the possibility of a daily (but not permanent) protest. As such, there were other opportunities for the campers to legitimately exercise their rights of freedom of speech and assembly. The rights granted under the convention were found not to give individuals absolute freedom to choose the manner of the expression of their rights to the detriment of others and it was accepted that individuals can stretch their rights too far if they seek to permanently or indefinitely occupy land belonging to others (even where they only occupying small areas, pose no threat to public order and cause no damage).

Lord Turnbull also took account of damage caused to the property by the camp, the impact of the camp on the rights of other people to enjoy the property without disturbance and the camp’s interference with the rights and duties of the corporate body. As a result, it was held that the balance that required to be struck ‘came down firmly’ in favour of a finding that the granting of the removal order was proportionate.

The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here:

https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/search-judgments/judgment?id=35451aa7-8980-69d2-b500-ff0000d74aa7

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