Ham & High: Judge rejects High Court challenge

Ham & High: Judge rejects High Court challenge

Published by the Ham&High by Tim Lamden on 11th March 2014.

See the Ham&High article here.

Controversial laws to licence busking in Camden will be enforced by the council after a legal challenge to halt the new rules was rejected by a High Court judge. 

Following a two-day judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice last month, judge Mrs Justice Patterson today ruled that Camden Council had adopted a lawful policy that was “both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking”.

In October, comedian Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg joined campaigners in Camden High Street to protest against the new rules.

The change will mean anyone caught busking without a licence could be fined up to £1,000 and have their instruments confiscated. The use of amplifiers and wind instruments will be banned.

It follows an increase in complaints from residents about noise generated by street entertainers.

The licensing system was due to be introduced last month but was put on ice by the council until the conclusion of the High Court proceedings. Buskers will now be able to apply for a licence from March 24.

The ruling is a defeat for busking campaign group Keep Streets Live! which was ordered to pay £7,500 in legal costs.

David Wolfe QC, representing the campaign group, asked for permission to appeal, arguing that the ruling raised important legal issues and would have an impact on street entertainment across London.

But the judge refused permission and campaigners will now have to consider asking the Court of Appeal to hear the case.

Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “By introducing this policy, we’re able to strike a balance between the rights of performers to use public spaces and the rights of our residents to a quality of life free from noise nuisance, often late at night.

“We have purposely set the costs of licences at a level that is affordable, clearly showing we do not wish to discourage music or street performances, but to find a way that works for all.”

Jonny Walker, founding director of Keep Streets Live!, said: “We are disappointed with Mrs Justice Patterson’s decision and will now seek to have this case heard by the Court of Appeal.”

A “standard” busking licence costs £19 and permits performances in public areas between the hours of 10am and 9pm. Licences are valid for a 12-month period in most circumstances.

Buskers can apply for a licence at www.camden.gov.uk/licensing or by calling 020 7974 4444.

The Guardian: High court upholds Camden busking restrictions

The Guardian: High court upholds Camden busking restrictions

Published by The Guardian by the Press Association on 11 March 2014.

READ THE ARTICLE ON TheGuardian.com now

Judge says policy introducing fines of up to £1,000 for busking without a licence is ‘necessary and proportionate’

New licensing restrictions on buskers in Camden have been declared lawful by the high court.

Comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg are among celebrities who took to the streets to protest over the restrictions being introduced by the council in the north London borough after noise complaints by local residents.

Busking without a licence is to become a criminal offence in Camden, punishable with fines of up to £1,000.

Bragg, who spent his early career busking around London, said licensing would hurt a fundamental aspect of UK culture.

But Mrs Justice Patterson, sitting in London, ruled on Tuesday that Camden council had adopted a policy that was “both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking”.

The ruling was a defeat for the Keeping Streets Live Campaign, which was ordered to pay £7,500 in legal costs.

David Wolfe QC, appearing for the campaign group, asked for permission to appeal, arguing that the ruling raised important legal issues and would have an impact on street entertainment across London.

The judge refused permission, which means the campaigners will now have to consider asking the court of appeal itself to hear their case.

The legal challenge was against a Camden council decision on 11 November last year to adopt part V of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 and approve a street entertainment policy for licensing in its area.

Licensing restrictions, which include a curfew, were due to be imposed for the first time last month, but the council agreed to await the outcome of the legal challenge before going ahead.

It is proposed that licences can be obtained on “standard conditions” for a 12-month period at a fee of £19. They can only be used by solo or dual performers.

The conditions restrict hours of performing from 10am-9pm, and also restrict the use of certain types of instruments, such as drums, wind instruments and the use of sound amplification.

A special busking licence is available for £47 where a performer wants a change in the standard conditions.

As well as implementing a fine, officials can confiscate instruments.

The judge said, when the question of licensing was debated, council members expressed divergent views, with some saying it was a significant benefit to the local economy while others regarded it as a significant problem for local residents, who particularly took issue with noise from amplifiers and drums.

Ruling the licensing regime lawful, the judge rejected accusations that the definition of busking was too wide in the policy and likely to cause confusion, and there was lack of evidence of a problem justifying the “draconian” step.

She also dismissed claims that the policy was disproportionate and breached the human rights of buskers.

The judge said the council had striven to adopt a policy “which holds the ring between promoting economic growth through fostering dynamic busking activity across the borough – but balancing that with the requirements of its residents and other economic activity which contributes to the well-being of Camden.

“It has done so in a way which, in my judgment, is lawful.”

Asking for permission to appeal, Wolfe said: “This is a case where there is a wider interest in granting permission. Not only does it affect Camden, but a lot of what your ladyship said has a wider impact potentially across the whole of London.”

After permission was refused, Rosa Curling, a human rights lawyer with solicitors Leigh Day representing Keep Streets Live Campaign, said: “We will now seek permission to take this decision to the court of appeal.

“The council’s draconian licensing policy is unnecessary, unlawful and threatens the very essence of what makes Camden such an important cultural space.”

Jonny Walker, founding director of Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited, said: “We are disappointed with Mrs Justice Patterson’s decision and will now seek to have this case heard by the court of appeal.”