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Pet Shop Protesters ‘Crossed the Line’, High Court Rules

The law protects everyone’s right to freedom of expression and to protest peacefully. However, that does not amount to carte blanche and, in one case, the High Court ruled that demonstrations outside a pet shop had crossed the line into a form of torment or harassment.

Protesters opposed the shop’s sale of puppies, which they viewed as immoral and inhumane, and banner-waving pickets had regularly appeared outside its doors, particularly during busy weekend trading. Their activities had also affected other businesses in the garden centre where the shop was located.

The Court noted that protesters were entitled to express their views forcefully and publicly and could not be censured if they achieved their objective of putting people off buying puppies. However, it was arguably oppressive and unacceptable to mount demonstrations week in, week out, in a manner which caused the shop’s owners distress and affected the trade of other retailers. The Court issued an injunction which restricted protests outside the shop to one hour on Saturdays and a single, three-hour, period during the week.