News Criminal Defence 23rd Dec 2021

Hannah Thomas acts for prominent anti-lockdown activist charged with breaching Coronavirus Regulations by protesting during lockdown

Hannah Thomas successfully represented prominent activist Debbie Hicks who was accused of breaching Coronavirus Regulations by protesting during the second period of national lockdown in November 2020.

On Monday 20 December Ms Hicks stood trial at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court for offences of organising / being involved in organising a gathering of more than 30 people during a period of national lockdown or alternatively for participating in the gathering.

The relevant gathering was a protest held in Stratford Park in Stroud against the restrictions imposed on the British public under the Coronavirus Regulations. The protest was called the ‘Freedom Rally’ and was attended by in excess of 50 people.

The protest was held two days into the second period of national lockdown and therefore at the time it was illegal to organise a gathering of more than 30 people or to meet in groups of more than two people. A conviction would have left her liable to a £10,000 fine.

Ms Hicks was acquitted of both offences after the court accepted Hannah’s argument that her arrest and prosecution was a disproportionate interference with her human rights – namely the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly[1], given that she was engaging in a legitimate protest.

The court found that Ms Hicks had organised the Freedom Rally and had breached the Coronavirus Regulations in force at the time by doing so.

However, she had a reasonable excuse for breaching the Regulations because she was attending a legitimate, peaceful and well organised protest. The officers on the ground at the protest had been labouring under a misapprehension of the law – that protesting was not lawful under the Regulations – and were essentially operating a blanket ban on protesting. Therefore, their actions in arresting her were not rational or proportionate.


Hannah was instructed by Andrew Rootsey of Murray Hughman Solicitors.

Links to press articles can be found here: BBC News | Daily Mail

[1] Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights as enshrined into domestic law under the Human Rights Act 1998


Hannah has been instructed in a number of similar protest cases and has been successful in persuading the CPS to discontinue proceedings on similar grounds.


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