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Public Liability Issues Rain On Parades

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Author: Cat White

Following the personal injury and compensation claims filed after the G20 protests, council chiefs have told the Orange Lodge that they must purchase public liability insurance before they can march in the Lothian's.

Officials from the East of Scotland Area Loyal Orange Order, said this week, that East Lothian Council's insistence that local lodges take out public liability insurance to march amounted to "a violation of the democratic right to parade peacefully in public."

Since November, all marches in the region have had to purchase public liability insurance, in the event that a protester is injured.

It is hardly surprising that the council has expressed wishes for the group to buy insurance cover, since it follows the London protests last April where one man died and others received personal injuries.

Since then several compensation claims have been filed by protesters against the police, with five protestors receiving 85,000 each in compensation, plus costs, in a settlement recorded at the high court.

James Welch, from the civil rights organisation Liberty, said about the incident: "It's always good to see the police recognise the right to peaceful dissent, even if it is after an embarrassment and under pain of litigation.

Strength in numbers

Regardless to this, the local lodges however, have refused to purchase such cover, on the grounds that it would be too expensive for them to insure each local parade, despite other groups such as the local gala securing such insurance.

More than 100 parades and marches take place every year in the Lothian's, with around eight in East Lothian and County grand master. Jim MacLean said it is prepared to go to court if East Lothian Council stands by its decision to implement new insurance regulations.

Mr MacLean said: "I am hoping to use my powers of persuasion and legal arguments at Thursday's licensing sub-committee to convince the council to grant us an exemption to the new regulations.

"However, if these are unsuccessful, we are prepared to lodge an appeal with the Sheriff, which is very likely to succeed as there is no legal basis for this demand.

"The council seems to think that our marches are analogous to other events such as gala days. However, this demand has no precedence in any of Scotland's other 31 local authority areas. There is a special procession committee in Glasgow that regulates the city's 800 or so marches every year, and even it does not insist that their marchers take out public liability insurance."

Mr MacLean added that he hoped the argument could be settled amicably: "We have no desire to become embroiled in another costly legal battle, so I hope the council can be persuaded to grant the exemption on Thursday."

A council spokeswoman said: "This is not an unusual request. We believe other Scottish councils, have introduced this as part of health and safety requirements. This rule applies to other public events, such as the Haddington Show, the Musselburgh Riding of the Marches, the North Berwick Highland Games and even the Nungate Gala. There is absolutely no discrimination involved."

About the author: Cat White is a financial and legal writer.

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