Supreme Court defines aggravated trespass

Posted: 7th February 2014

shopsShops and other commercial premises targeted by campaign groups will be afforded greater protection in future after the Supreme Court upheld the aggravated trespass convictions of two men who invaded a cosmetics store that they believed took its supplies from Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.

The shop specialised in selling products based on minerals from the Dead Sea. In the belief that those supplies were manufactured by an Israeli company operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the two men arrived at the shop and proceeded to padlock themselves together inside a concrete tube. Police were called and tools were used to free the men, who claimed not to have the padlock key.

The men were convicted by magistrates of aggravated trespass contrary to Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (the Act) and their appeal to the Divisional Court was dismissed. However, the case was referred to the Supreme Court on the basis that it raised an issue of general public importance.

The men’s lawyers argued that the shop was not engaged in a ‘lawful activity’ within the meaning of the Act. It was argued that the shop’s activities involved the commission of various criminal offences, including aiding and abetting a war crime and the Israeli authorities’ ‘belligerent occupation’ of Palestinian territory.

In dismissing their appeal, however, the Court unanimously found that an activity is ‘unlawful’ for the purposes of the Act only if it involves a criminal offence integral to the core activity carried on, not where any alleged criminality is only incidental, collateral to, or remote from the activity. Applying that principle to the facts of the case, none of the offences alleged by the men were integral to the shop’s activities.