Participating in Red Nose Day could get you sent to prison

This coming Friday is the regular donate-a-thon and TV hog known as Red Nose Day. By buying the paraphernalia, doing silly things to raise money and pledging money and so on you can donate to help people who really need your spare change more than you probably do.

But be careful where you participate from. Despite this being a wonderously effective way of raising the moolah for the needy, Bloggerheads have noticed that since the introduction of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 you are in proper danger of breaking the law should you decide to join in - even if it's just by wearing a red nose. You may be punished with a £1000 fine, or should actually be involved in organising a related event you're up for £2500 or 51 weeks imprisonment.

The problem occurs should you be wandering through the Westminster area with a red nose related item or agenda about you. The issue is the that part of SOCPA bans protest in specific areas of the UK - currently around Parliament - unless you apply in advance for "permission" to do so from the state and they kindly agree to let you do so. Yay liberty. If the powers-that-be - who of course are often exactly those protesters are tackling head-on - don't like your protest then you can't have it. Whilst it should be said that plenty of protests have generously been "allowed" the police et al. have successfully used the law to do such wonderfully society-protecting and democracy-promoting things as arrest a peace campaigner for the earth-shatteringly fearful crime of reading out the names of Iraqi civilians who had died in the ongoing Iraq "war". And who knows what the future will bring?

Some would, rather credibly, have it that the whole intention of this part of the law was to remove Brian Haw, another peace campaigner, from continuing his years-long protest focussed on the sanctions against and war on Iraq. MPs had to walk past his banners every day and they probably didn't like having to look at them too much. So they legislated to remove him. Imagine their disappointment when it turned out the High Court determined that the law would not actually apply to Haw, him having started his protest years before the law came in. Since then the Government did manage to bully the appeals court into changing that decision and banning further appeal, and he has had many of his banners have been removed by the authorities for various silly excuses; for instance that they might have secret bombs inside them...but again these rulings against him have been largely negated by the courts.

Anyway, the point here is that Comic Relief is itself clearly something of a campaign. Its website tells us all about the issues it relates to. This includes such hot political issues as trade justice, people affected by conflict, asylum seeker policy and so on.

Here's an example of their declarations:

Trade should be a means by which poor people can lift themselves out of poverty. However, because of international trade rules and practices that are unfairly biased in favour of the richest nations and companies.

It's not all about fun!

…we ensure that amongst all the fun and games we include information about the very serious work we're supporting in the UK and Africa. We especially encourage young people to look into the issues underlying our work by running special education initiatives every Red Nose Day

Clearly participating in Red Nose Day in any way therefore fits most definitions of a demonstration.

You will therefore need to either be sure you are not inadvertently in any way participating in the events of the day - whether by wearing a red nose, driving with one on your car and certainly not actively fundraising - in this part of the UK if you want to keep within the law or seek permission to do so from the state.

If you have decided you do wish to wear a red nose or join in the theme of the day in any other way around Westminster, then that might be fine if you apply for permission from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner by filling in the relevant forms and submitting it in person or by recorded delivery. The only problem is you preferably needed to do this a week in advance, so you might be out of the running for consideration. Better luck next year. Until then, keep your protest away from the Government unless you want to risk "legitimate" arrest.


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