Declaration and substantial damages received by 34 Claimants following successful Freedom of Expression case against Lambeth Council and MPS
Free speech is not only an ability to share ideas, concepts, values and beliefs but also the ability to criticize those same ideas, concepts, values and beliefs. Freedom of speech is what protects citizens from being persecuted by the state for expressing what to some people [or indeed many] may believe to be controversial ideas.
My clients only wanted to speak about Reparations for the historical and ongoing effects of slavery. They wanted to discuss self-help and others in the black community wanted to hear what Minister Louis Farrakhan had to say on that subject alone. This is not a controversial topic, in fact it is discussed and debated in the black community, in some of our most prestigious universities, between historical and political experts and on the political stage domestically and internationally.
Lambeth Council and the Metropolitan Police in removing the Claimants’ ability to speak their minds, sought to suppress their ability to think about matters of central importance to their very being. In fact, they prohibited the Claimants in the Nation of Islam uk from speaking about anything and the police attended to ensure compliance.
Over the last 4 years, Lambeth Council and the police have spent somewhere between £1.3m – £1.5 fighting this case and denying all wrongdoing.
The fact that they have continued to deny wrongdoing for almost 4 years is wrong on two levels. It served to add to the insult my clients felt and it was a gross abuse of public funds; being deployed not for the benefit of their local community, but to conceal wrongdoing and protect their reputations.
My clients were pursuing unity in the black community and what the Council and the police did, created division. This sort of unlawful conduct is not unique and this was not an isolated incident.
Shortly before this trial was due to start, they rightly capitulated and made significant admissions that what they did was wrong and have now agreed to pay them damages for the injury and insult caused. Be in no doubt, this was a serious and egregious breach of my clients’ rights to express their religious, social and political beliefs publicly.
Hopefully, going forward, Lambeth Council and the police will put to one side any personal preconceptions, apologise to my clients and the wider black community for their behaviour and will work with my clients and all black community groups to ensure that the whole black community can engage in discourse on the matter of Reparations and matters afflicting the black community.
You see, the right to freedom of speech is not just a right extended to those in positions of power who hold a counter-view, but applies to all those who hold a view. I sincerely hope some, particularly within Lambeth Council, remember this fundamental human right and do not ever again seek to suppress the views of some within their local communities whilst championing counter views; for this is not their role – their role is to serve.
Andre Clovis led this case, alongside trainee solicitors Lucinda Hawthorn and Caroline Bayyoud.
Counsel were Iain Daniels from 2 Hare Court, Richard Clayton QC from Ely Place, Tamara Muhammed from One Pump Court, and Martin Forde QC from One Crown Office Row.