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No breach of Articles 10 and 11 to refuse permission to hold conference

R (on the application of Ben-Dor & ors) v University of Southampton [2016] EWHC 953 (Admin)

The High Court dismissed a judicial review in respect of Southampton University’s decision to withdraw its permission to hold a conference.  It also refused permission to challenge the University’s decision to require the organisers to meet security costs as a condition of allowing the conference to take place at a later date.

The conference concerned the legality of the existence of Israel and the University was concerned that there would be a high risk of disorder if it were to go ahead.  It was not possible to hold the conference until measures could be taken to secure order and the University advised organisers that it could take place at a later date subject to certain conditions, including that the organisers would have to meet the costs in providing security.  The organisers argued that both decisions were an unlawful interference with their right to free expression and right to free assembly.  They also argued that there was a breach of the University’s Code of Practice and the decision was based on irrelevant considerations, i.e. the recent terror attacks in Paris.

As the rights in question are not absolute, it was necessary for the court to consider the question of proportionality.  Whipple J found that the University had no real choice in withdrawing its permission given the safety concerns.  Further, she found that there was no reason why the conference should not fund its own security costs as this did not amount to any interference with the rights in question.

Read article from Inform here.

Freedom of Thought, Conscience & Religion