Lawyers representing climate change protesters who were arrested in parliament last week are to mount a legal challenge against bail conditions that were imposed, they say, to "stifle" future protest by their clients.
Four members of the group Climate Rush, who glued themselves to a statue inside the Commons last Monday, were released on bail on the condition they did not communicate "directly or indirectly" with one another before 16 June, the date of their return to a police station.
The activists, who are demanding greater government action to curb climate emissions, were held at Belgravia police station for 15 hours and released without charge. As well as being barred from communicating with each other, the four have been prevented from going within 1km of parliament.
Alice Heath, 19, Chris Kitchen, 30, Cadi St John, 20, and Deborah Grayson, 24, all from London, have been careful when talking to third parties ? including journalists or lawyers ? in case doing so could be interpreted as "indirect" communication with fellow campaigners.
Their solicitor, Jessica Skinns, said: "Bail conditions have been imposed by police on the basis that they are necessary to prevent the commission of further offences. However, the effect of these bail conditions is to stifle legitimate protest. We intend to challenge the conditions."
Heath said yesterday that being prevented from speaking to her friends after their arrest had left her frustrated. "I just wanted to get out and speak to [fellow protesters] who had been through this with me. On that personal level I was distraught."
Grayson described her bail conditions as "ridiculous". "It seems distinctly like [police] are trying to limit the ability of the electorate to object to or publicise the hypocrisy within the government's climate policy, increasing state control," she said. "And of course having to walk out of the police station on Tuesday past [fellow protester] Alice, in tears, and not even be able to smile at her, felt like an awful end to an awful day."
The bail conditions against the Climate Rush activists are the latest in what civil liberty groups have described as attempts by police to prevent peaceful protest. Earlier this month police in Nottinghamshire arrested 114 environmental protesters before a planned demonstration at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.
All the activists were released without charge, although a number were given strict bail conditions preventing them from venturing near power stations across the country.
The preemptive arrest of campaigners is likely to form part of an inquiry by parliament's joint committee on human rights on the policing of protests, which was reopened in the wake of widespread criticism of police tactics at the G20 demonstrations in London.