Image credit: JRS Knowhow and the Noun Project
Disclaimer: every effort has been made to describe the following commonly used words, phrases and acronyms in an accessible, inclusive and understandable way. The glossary will be updated with more terms soon.
This is a pilot resource and we welcome your feedback, questions or suggestions via the feedback page.
- Case law
- Case law is the law that is established by judgements made by Scottish, UK and European courts in previous cases. Case law establishes certain laws that must be followed in later cases by lower courts.
- A child is defined internationally as anyone under the age of 18.
Article 1 of the United Nations Convention of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”.
In Scotland the legal age of responsibility is 12, which means anyone under 12 cannot be arrested at a protest. In Scotland, anyone over 16 can be charged and tried in Scottish courts for protest related offences as an adult.
- Civil cases
- Civil cases are legal disputes between private parties. A civil case will involve one person or party bringing a legal action against another person or party in which they are seeking some form of redress or remedy. This can be contrasted to legal disputes between individuals and the state for example criminal or immigration cases.
- Deportation is a process of forcibly removing people from a country because of their immigration status.
Immigration is the responsibility of the UK Government and not the Scottish Government. The UK Government Home Office Immigration Enforcement vans have been met with protestors in Glasgow and Edinburgh, whilst trying to deport people.
- The European Convention on Human Rights was written following the Second World War and is an international human rights treaty which sets out basic rights and freedoms of ordinary people that ought to be protected. The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the ECHR in domestic UK law.
- Freedom of association and assembly
- Freedom of association and assembly is the human right to gather together for a common purpose in meetings or demonstrations. For example, you are free to join a protest. It also gives you the right to join a trade union, political party, association or voluntary group.
In Scotland, the definition of an assembly is found in the Public Order Act 1986 section 16 and means ‘two or more people in a public place, which is wholly or partly open to the air’.
Freedom of association and assembly is one of the rights that contributes to the right to protest along with freedom of expression. It can be found in the European Convention of Human Rights and is made into Scottish law by the Human Rights Act 1998.
It is not an absolute right and it can be legally limited. For example, to protect national security and to prevent disorder or crime.
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom of expression is the human right to look for, get and give information and ideas without government interference. For example, you can start a petition about a government policy, write a letter to your Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) or you can hold a banner with a statement at a protest.
Freedom of expression is one of the rights that contributes to the right to protest along with freedom of assembly and association. It can be found in the European Convention of Human Rights 1950 and is made into Scottish law by the Human Rights Act 1998.
It is not an absolute right and it can be legally limited. For example, to protect the rights and reputation of people.
- International law
- International law is the law that governs the relationship between nations. International law is the basis upon which treaties or agreements between different countries become binding.
- The law places limits on the scope of power that public authorities have. Public authorities must act within these limits and if they do not, they can be said to have acted unlawfully.
- Lawful, necessary, and proportionate
- Our rights can only be restricted if the restrictions are “lawful, necessary and proportionate”
- Legal aid
- Legal aid is a form of means tested financial assistance available to those who incur legal costs that they are unable to pay. Legal aid is available for criminal, civil and public law cases.
- Legal observer
- A legal observer is someone who is not a participant of a protest. They attend protests in order to observe the policing of protestors and to gather information on the extent to which peoples right to protest is being upheld. The law does not offer any special protection to legal observers. Legal observers usually wear bright orange bibs.
- Necessary in a democratic society
- It is accepted, in law, that in a democratic society there will be a necessity to limit some people’s rights for reasons that are in the public interest such as security, public health or public safety. For example, during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic it was deemed necessary to limit people’s right to freedom of assembly in order to protect public health.
- Organiser or the person (s) who plan a protest might be the people who submit a notification to the relevant public authorities in advance of a march. They might also be the people who invite participants to attend. There is no legal definition of an organiser, but they have the same legal rights as a participant. They may however face different legal responsibilities and consequences.
- Participant a person involved in a protest is someone who shares the goal of the assembly. You cannot be forced to join a protest. It is different to walking by a protest that is already happening.
- Peaceful protest
- A peaceful protest is one without violence or criminal acts. This might include damage to property, theft or harm to people. A peaceful protest can change over time to become violent or criminal. People policing a protest that has become violent or criminal must make sure that people are aware if the protest might be restricted to prevent disorder.
- Police Liaison
- Some protests will have a person who volunteers to liaise with the police and to provide them with information regarding the protest both before and during.
- Police Liaison Officer
- Police Liaison Officers (PLOs) are specially trained police officers who attend protests and demonstrations. Their purpose is to facilitate peaceful protest and to gather information from organisers and participants. Police Liaison Officers usually wear light blue bibs.
- Procession or march is explained by Scots law as a moving group of people assembled for a purpose in a public place. It does not include funeral processions.
- Proportionality questions the extent to which a restriction on a right, made by a public authority, is necessary. Proportionality asks whether an apparently necessary step that has been taken is in fact necessary and if it is, could it have been taken in a less restrictive way. For example, it is common for protest to take place when foreign leaders come to visit the UK, a public authority may seek to limit such a protest on the basis that there is a security risk. It is likely that a proportionate measure would be to allow a protest but restrict it to a certain area that would allow for security risk to be managed. A disproportionate measure would be to the prevent the protest all together.
- Protests are acts of solidarity and resistance. They can be gatherings in public or private places. They can be still or moving demonstrations. Protests can be in-person or digital. Protests might include gatherings, vigils, celebrations, marches, sit-ins, boycotts and even paddle outs. Acts of protest might also include letter writing or signing a petition. Certain types of protest and counter protest are protected by law in Scotland. The law about one person protests in Scotland is different in England and Wales.
- Restrictions or limits on protests can only be issued by public authorities if they are lawful, for the necessary aims stated and proportionate. The European Court of Human Rights explains restrictions as actions taken before an assembly, during it, or after it (ECtHR 2021: section 49, page 13). These might be restrictions on where the assembly can take place by a local authority, demands for it to stop or reroute issue by the Police or fines issues to protestors. They also might include restricting the travel of individuals going to a protest.
- Right to roam
- The right to roam is a law that allows members of the public to access land that does not belong to them. The right to roam has been legally enshrined by an act of the Scottish Parliament. The right to roam is different in Scotland than in England and Wales. In Scotland the right to roam gives people a significant amount of freedom to access land for recreational use that is owned privately. However, there are limits to the right to roam that prevent people interfering with people’s privacy. For example, it does not give you the right to walk through someone’s garden or land being actively worked upon.
- Our rights are the things we are owed by law because we are human. Everyone has human rights. They are all linked and cannot be taken away. For example, the right to freedom of expression is linked to the right to freedom of assembly and association. Which is linked to the right to freedom from arbitrary detention and the right a fair trial, if you are arrested and charged at a protest.
- A solicitor is a trained and certified lawyer who has various regulated roles and responsibilities. Their main function is to deal with legal matters and provide legal advice and representation for members of the public and organisations. They also have the authority to represent clients in some courts.
- Use of force
- Internationally, the use of force refers to any physical means used against a person for law enforcement purposes. The use of force ranges from touching a person to the intentionally lethal use of firearms. It also includes the threat to use force.
Police Scotland define Use of Force as: ‘any physical use of force, except compliant handcuffing and come along hold / escort hold. It includes: Empty Hand Techniques; Batons; Irritant Sprays – PAVA (both drawing and discharge); Leg Restraints and Spit Hoods. Police Scotland also makes use of Taser.