The Independent London Newspaper
25th March 2017

Buskers lose High Court battle against new licensing rules for street performers

    Buskers at the High Court earlier this month

    Buskers at the High Court earlier this month

    Published: 11 March, 2014

    BUSKERS in Camden Town have lost their High Court battle against Camden Council's new licensing policy for street performers, but vowed this afternoon (Tuesday) that they “will not stop here”.

    The musicians are fighting new rules which demand they all have licences, bans amplified music and sets a 9pm curfew for performances.

    Instruments can be confiscated under the new rules which the Town Hall says it introduced to protect residents from disturbance. 

    These rules were challenged by a two-day judicial review earlier this month, but a High Court ruling released today by Mrs Justice Patterson at the Royal Courts of Justice said Camden did not need to tear up its plans.

    Jonny Walker, from the Keep Streets Live campaign group, said the High Court judge had taken the council's argument at “face value”.

    He said: “We profoundly disagree with her judgement and will now seek to have this case heard by the Court of Appeal and to ask Camden not to enforce their policy until the case is heard by a higher court. Under Camden's policy even singing a protest song without a licence could be a criminal offence. In a democratic society, singing a song in the street should never be a potential criminal offence.” 

    He added that buskers had the option of going to the House of Lords and then to Strasbourg to fight their case. 

    The full 26-page judgement was published today, and stated that the policy “would be in pursuit of a legitimate aim”.

    Mrs Justice Patterson noted that “large varieties of busking are untouched, there is no restriction on the content of any busking and the fees for a standard licence are low”.

    Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust, who is the council's chairwoman of licensing, said she was pleased with the result.

    She added: "The court has affirmed that regulation is not prohibition and we look forward to a responsible busking scene living alongside our residents."




    May I ask what connection these "protestors" have with Camden?

    We who live here, many note exactly by choice, have had enough of being subject to blocked pavements and noise.

    This show must go on

    Yesterday's judgement was a sad day for Camden. The Labour Councillors who have pushed so hard for this piece of legislation do not seem to realise that they have made unamplified singing in the streets into a criminal offence and put their names on one of the most restrictive busking policies in modern UK history. In doing so they have spent tens of thousands of pounds at a time when they are trying to introduce 'savings' of £83 million from the Council Budget.

    Camden's Labour group seem oblivious to the fact that they have introduced a climate of fear onto the streets of Camden and, at the stroke of the legislative pen, turned the borough into a 'no go' area for grassroots culture. This has profound long-term implications for the nature of Camden and is a clear sign that it is losing its identity as a place of genuine cultural diversity and is becoming (or has already become) a place typified by multinational chain stores, police-backed social controls and the prioritisation of covert commercial agendas.

    As a Labour Party member I have found this whole episode very sad. Whilst the Greens, Lib Dems and even the Tories saw this policy for what it really is, a heavy handed overreaction to issues that should have been dealt with using existing powers, Labour have sought to regulate, bureaucratise and control an aspect of civic life that arises spontaneously and organically in a way that will crush and stifle it. What does this day about Labour's respect for freedom of expression and their support of culture and the arts?

    This issue will not go away. There are many people who have engaged with ramifications of this new law and are gravely troubled by its wide-ranging implications. The law will be challenged in a higher court, and on the streets of Camden. It will make for an interesting run up to May's local elections.

    Justice for residents

    Justice for residents the high court as expected backed the councils fair a proportional policy.
    "The scheme did not stop people busking in Camden, and limiting busking to prevent obstructions of the highway or the creation of nuisance was ‘an acceptable interference with Article 10 rights’. In applying the proportionality analysis, the Court held that there was a “pressing social need” to regulate busking (nuisance/obstruction), and existing powers available to the Council (e.g. enforcement under the Environmental Protection Act 1990) were not equivalent to the powers under the 2000 Act for dealing with buskers in a comprehensive way. "

    in the words of the court once again Jonny tries his best to misrepresent the policy to the media but the courts wont be fooled by this blatant misrepresentation chalk one up for the much beleaguered British Justice system

    'Justice' for 56 residents out of 220,000

    The judge has taken the view that busker's protection under Article 10 exists at a low level. However case law indicates that musical expression is analogous to political speech in terms of its protection under the law and exists at a higher level.

    In my view the idea that there was a 'pressing social need' for the over the top policy Camden have proposed is highly debatable and the judge has made a 'mis-judgment'. That's why we have a Court of Appeal. Meanwhile Camden are left with a policy of dubious legitimacy, an ongoing legal challenge and a run up to some local elections. It's an interesting combination.

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