Orange Order loses bid to overturn marching ban

THE Orange Order has lost its legal bid to overturn a council-imposed marching ban, after a sheriff rejected claims the ban violated their human rights.

The Midlothian District Loyal Orange Institution of Scotland appealed after Midlothian Council banned an afternoon procession in Penicuik next Saturday afternoon (June 28) for fears it could lead to public disorder.

The local authority agreed to allow a 15-minute march at 9.15am but voted against the organisation's bid to hold a second parade at 4.15pm the same day.

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Councillors took the decision at a special committee meeting on May 6 after hearing that marchers were drinking and urinating in public at the last afternoon parade in the town in 2002.

The order complained the decision went against their right of "freedom of peaceful assembly" as set out in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But after a one-day hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today, Sheriff Kenneth Maciver decided the council had respected their human rights by allowing the morning parade and threw out the appeal.

Outside court, members of the Order said they intend to appeal to the Court of Session next week.

Midlothian Council has agreed that up to 100 marchers, including a 30-piece flute band, can take part in the morning procession, which celebrates the 318th anniversary of the battle of the Boyne.

The Order had wanted to march past the town's Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church but agreed to change their route on police advice.

Jonathan Brown, counsel for the Order, argued it was annual tradition for the Order to march twice in one day in towns around Midlothian.

But Midlothian Council solicitor Richard McMeeken said the local authority had tried to balance the interests of the general public against the right of the Order to march.

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Sheriff Maciver said he believed the council's decision to ban the afternoon march was "not an unreasonable exercise of their discretion".

"I think its fair for the council to have a degree of knowledge about what may occur on or around a specific celebration of this distant battle," said the sheriff.

"It has a position in Scottish society which will be familiar to the committee which was faced with making a decision on it.

"I cannot find that there is substance in the appeal and accordingly I dismiss it," he added.

The sheriff awarded expenses in favour of Midlothian Council.

Outside court Robert McLean, spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said they would appeal to the Court of Session and were hopeful of a decision ahead of next Saturday.

"We are obviously disappointed with the sheriff's decision. We have just spoken to our legal team and we plan to appeal next week," said Mr McLean.

"It's everybody's right to peaceful assembly and for a sheriff to overrule that is wrong.