Met Police win case against Critical Mass

A recent Critical Mass goes through Covent Garden

The Met Police’s appeal against the ruling that London’s Critical Mass bike ride did not need permission under the Public Order Act  has been successful.  This does not ban the critical mass but potentially gives the police the power to make arrests under the Public Order Act  if they believe that it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community.  

Critical Mass rides have been taking place since April 1994, with cyclists gathering on South Bank on the last Friday of the month to follow an unplanned route through the city to celebrate cycling. There has never been an instance of serious disorder, or serious disruption greater than the disruption caused everyday by excess motor traffic.

Last summer the High Court ruled that rides did not need to have prior permission from the police under the Public Order Act 1985 as they were habitual processions. However, the police appealed against the decision, wanting to be given prior notification of the route.

Two Appeal Court judges have now overruled the High Court ruling, in spite of a declaration by Lord Justice Wall that to rule that Critical Mass fell under the auspices of the Public Order Act was "potentially oppressive". The outcome means that unless police are notified with a date, time and route of the bike ride, they may have the power to arrest participants if the police believe serious public disorder may be the result.  Perversely if anyone does give notice of the ride and a route they could be arrested if they ride goes a different way.

Charlie Lloyd of LCC says, "it is difficult to understand why the Metropolitan Police apper to want to smash Critical Mass.  It is a peaceful celebration of cycling which gives people confidence to ride in central London.

"Each month Critical Mass brings a small area of good natured fun into London's traffic, it is generally welcomed by onlookers and tourists who welcome the relief from threatening motor traffic.

Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the London Assembly, said in a statement: "This decision is bad news for everyone, as it will end up with the police wasting time arresting innocent cyclists like me, rather than arresting real criminals.

"Critical Mass is a lively, but peaceful get-together of cyclists which has been going on for over a decade without any major incidents.

"Arresting cyclists at Critical Mass will be like arresting a group of passengers for gathering at Westminster tube station during the rush hour."

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