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A report about Tommy Robinson states the following:

In an earlier statement, the force said organisers had "been clear about their concerns that the man's attendance, and that of those who were likely to accom pany him, would cause fear for other participants. "The same view has been voiced by others. "As a result he was spoken to and warned on more than one occasion that his continued presence in the area was likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to others. "He was directed to leave the area refused to do so."

Here it seems alleged by police the man’s very presence was sufficiently upsetting to people, including the March’s “organisers,” to constitute an offence. Can one’s very identity be enough to render one’s presence in an area an arrestable criminal offence?

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  • Well yes but it is a specific person’s presence and not that of another person. In other words it is Tommy Robinson’s own presence that would cause it and not yours or mine or any of the other attendees’. Nov 27, 2023 at 5:18
  • @Seekinganswers for the sake of argument assume that whoever the person is, they might have statements written all over their body that might be disruptive to everyone at once, e.g. every article of clothing is insulting at least one if not several groups. That's not the identity it's their behavior.
    – Trish
    Nov 27, 2023 at 11:28
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    @Jen, but would the effect of the presence of another person with a completely different identity be equally "likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to others"? If not, then "one's very identity" would seem to matter in this case, would it not? Nov 27, 2023 at 16:47
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    @Trish, the quote mentioned "concerns that the man's attendance, and that of those who were likely to accompany him". It did not mention behavior, merely attendance. Any inference that they might have "statements written all over their body", (even for the sake of argument) is completely unfounded, and therefore is not a valid critique of the question. The identity of this man and his companions is the central theme of both the quote and the question, not their behavior. Nov 27, 2023 at 17:40
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    @Trish the man's identity matters very much. The well-known activist Tommy Robinson had been warned not to attend, because of his history of inciting trouble. He doesn't need the tattoos: he's very good at it without them – charismatic. Nov 27, 2023 at 18:50

2 Answers 2

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This is Part 3 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. It gives the police the power to specify an area and a timeframe during which

a constable in uniform may direct a person who is in a public place in the locality specified in the authorisation—

(a) to leave the locality (or part of the locality), and

(b) not to return to the locality (or part of the locality) for the period specified in the direction (“the exclusion period”).

There are restrictions about when they can do this, but a planned demonstration clearly qualifies.

They can only order someone to leave if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the excluded person is likely to contribute to members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or the occurence in the locality of crime or disorder, and that the exclusion will reduce that likelihood.

Refusing to leave after being ordered to do so is an offence.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka "Tommy Robinson") is well known to the police thanks to a history of causing harassment, alarm, distress, crime and disorder at similar events. So the police were well within their powers to order him to leave the area.

So to answer the question, no, merely attending a demonstration is not an offence. Refusing to leave after being ordered to do so by a police constable is.

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The offense was staying when asked to leave

Why the person was asked to leave is not material to your question

from a commment,

Later the same day he was charged with with failing to comply with a section 35 direction excluding a person from an area. This is Directions excluding a person from an area, section 35 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014; the offence is failing without reasonable excuse to comply, section 39(1).

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    How can it not be material? What legal grounds were there for them to have been asked to leave (presumably a public place) in the first place? Nov 27, 2023 at 18:47
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    @Seekinganswers , you've presumed it was public, I have not.
    – Tiger Guy
    Nov 28, 2023 at 14:35
  • And you’ve presumed that there is some grounds whether of it being private or something else, on which he could rightly be asked to leave the area, seemingly without any basis to do so; I have not. Nov 28, 2023 at 16:54
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    @Seekinganswers If you bothered to read the law cited you would have your answer. Nov 28, 2023 at 17:20

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