New law could bring curtain down on anti-Israel protesters

EXCLUSIVE

Protesters who disrupt performances by Israeli actors and musicians could be sued or face injunctions under new plans expected to be put before Parliament.

A proposal due to be introduced by Israel-supporting lawyers would seek to adapt the law on aggravated trespass which would allow aggrieved performers or audience members to seek damages from activists.

The new law could provide an opportunity for actors, musicians or speakers to seek civil action regardless of `whether police intervene. Injunctions could be used to stop the same activists carrying out future protests.

“Disrupting an artistic performance or lecture crosses a red line, and we suggest that there should be an effective remedy available to those affected,” said Jonathan Turner, chairman of UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).

It is hoped legislation could be applied to future cases similar to the disruption of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra’s Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, or the interruption of the Habima theatre company’s production of The Merchant of Venice at the Globe Theatre in 2012.

Police acted against only a small number of activists following those incidents.

The UKLFI group wants an amendment to be made to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. The legislation is due to be discussed in the Commons after the Easter recess.

Mr Turner said this week that UKLFI had secured the support of an unnamed MP who would put forward the amendment. The legal group has also worked with Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile on the issue. He will pursue the amendment when the bill reaches the Lords.

“We are of course aware that some of the people who engage in this kind of disruption live on welfare and have nothing to lose," said Mr Turner.

“But quite a lot of them are middle-class people who might think twice if they have to pay compensation to members of the audience affected by this kind of disruption. Injunctions could be useful against regular offenders.”

Mr Turner said police forces had often been unwilling to prosecute those who caused disruptions if the hosting venue had refused to complain.

“Our proposal will provide a remedy to members of the audience and performers, and hopefully this may result in a reduction of the problems,” he said.

There was no intention to prevent lawful demonstrations at venues, only a hope of introducing the right to seek civil action in the event of already-criminal activity, he added.

Last updated: 11:13am, April 4 2014