Street Entertainment

March 12th, 2014 by James Goudie KC

R (Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited) v Camden LBC [2014] EWHC 607 (Admin) is a claim for judicial review of Camden’s decision to adopt Part V of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 and to approve a Policy the effect of which is to license busking in Camden’s area.  Patterson J dismissed the claim.

The first ground of challenge was that the Policy was insufficiently certain.  However, as Patterson J observed (para 39): “The requirement of certainty is not one of absolute certainty”; and (para 43): “Given the nature of street entertainment it would be impossible to come up with an absolute definition”.  She concluded (para 48): “There is … sufficient clarity in the drafting of the Policy for a concerned person, with advice if necessary, to know whether there was likely to be a breach of licence conditions or a requirement to obtain a licence”; and (para 49): “… the Policy is sufficiently comprehensible”.

The second ground of challenge was that the Policy was adopted on an unlawful basis.  Patterson J rejected this challenge.  The statutory preconditions for making a scheme had been satisfied.

The third ground of challenge was that the Policy infringed ECHR Art 10.  Patterson J, however, held that the Policy was necessary and proportionate.  She held (para 101) that busking “is not the most important right of free expression in a democratic society.  It is not akin to political speech”.  Although Art 10 was engaged, “it operates at a low level”.  The scheme did not stop people busking in Camden, and (para 102) limiting busking to prevent obstructions of the highway or the creation of nuisance was “an acceptable interference with Article 10 rights”.  In applying the proportionality analysis, the Court held that there was a “pressing social need” to regulate busking (nuisance/obstruction), and existing powers available to the Council (e.g. enforcement under the Environmental Protection Act 1990) were not equivalent to the powers under the 2000 Act for dealing with buskers in a comprehensive way.

Patterson J concluded (para 122) that Camden “has adopted a policy which, in my judgement, is both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking.  It has striven to introduce 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”. 

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