The government won its appeal yesterday against a high court ruling that allowed the anti-war protester Brian Haw to continue his long-running vigil, despite new legislation aimed at controlling demonstrations around the houses of parliament.
Last July Mr Haw, 56, from Worcestershire, won a high court action against the laws threatening his round-the-clock demonstration, which he began in Parliament Square in June 2001. The high court ruled then that the law, contained in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, required police permission only for demonstrations that began after the law came into force.
But at the court of appeal yesterday the master of the rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, Lord Justice Laws and Lady Justice Hallett overturned that decision.
Encircled by photographers and tourists yesterday, Mr Haw, who did not attend court, looked distressed. "They've managed to bend it like Beckham," he said. "They've bent the law to get rid of me. This is Mr Blair's democracy. I was the last of the Mohicans, the last British citizen allowed to stand outside parliament and protest, and now I'm gone."
The Stop the War Coalition, which backed his case, but with which Mr Haw does not directly associate, described the decision as "another stab in the back" for democracy.
The appeal court judges said yesterday they were influenced in reaching their decision largely by an argument from the Metropolitan police which had not been put forward at the high court. The provisions in the 2005 act applying to demonstrations replaced parts of the Public Order Act 1986 for protests staged around parliament. If the 2005 act did not apply to demonstrations started before that act came into force those protests would not be covered for public order purposes at all.
Mr Haw, against whom the 2005 act provisions were targeted, initially demonstrated against western sanctions on Iraq and later against Britain's involvement in the US-led war and its aftermath.
Described by his QC, Richard Drabble, as a committed Christian with a passion for peace and human rights, he sleeps in the square and has built up a large display of anti-war banners, placards and flags, many presented by wellwishers. In 2002 Westminster council failed to evict him after the high court judge Mr Justice Gray refused to grant an injunction preventing him obstructing the pavement.
But allowing the government's appeal yesterday, Sir Anthony said that on the true construction of the act, "parliament intended to include demonstrations whenever they started".
The act permits police "to impose conditions on the holding of a demonstration so as to prevent hindrance to any person wishing to enter or leave the Palace of Westminster, hindrance of the proper operation of parliament, serious public disorder, serious damage to property, disruption to the life of the community, a security risk in any part of the designated area, and risk to safety of members of the public".
Mr Haw was refused permission to appeal to the law lords, but his solicitor, Stephen Grosz, said he would consider asking them for permission to appeal.