Only five of the 64 people arrested at King Charles’s coronation have been charged with an offence, the Metropolitan police have said.
At the coronation in May, the Met arrested 52 people for protest-related offences and a further 12 for offences not related to protest. On Wednesday, Scotland Yard said it had referred the cases of 21 people to the Crown Prosecution Service, 20 of whom were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.
Police were accused of an “incredibly alarming” attack on the right to protest after new powers were used to arrest demonstrators. Graham Smith, the chief executive of the anti-monarchy protest group Republic, and other organisers of an approved demonstration were arrested hours before the coronation began.
Smith was released at about 11pm that evening. He tweeted that there was “no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK”.
The Met’s assistant commissioner Matt Twist said: “Every day officers have to make decisions based on the information they have available to them at the time. Arrests do not always lead to charges and it is important to remember that the threshold for obtaining a charge is higher than that for making an arrest where an officer need only have suspicion of an offence.
“For example, three of those whose arrest did not lead to charge were found near the coronation route in the early hours of the day of the event in possession of glue, a banner from a known activist group, allen keys and other paraphernalia that could have been used to commit criminal damage or other disruption.
“I am confident the public would recognise why officers chose to make arrests in those circumstances, even though it was ultimately determined that a conviction at court would have been unlikely.
“In the hours before the coronation, we had intelligence that indicated activists were plotting to target the procession. We had real concerns that such efforts would not only disrupt an event of enormous national significance, but that they could also compromise the security and safety of participants and the public, including posing a risk of serious injury.
“Officers were briefed on these concerns and were directed to act appropriately in light of the emerging intelligence picture, which they did.
“We have previously expressed our regret that a number of people who were arrested and released later the same day with no further action taken against them were unable to participate in their planned protest.
“However any suggestion that protest was prohibited at the coronation is not supported by the evidence. There was significant protest activity at points along the procession route, notably in Trafalgar Square.”