What is a Legal Observer?

Legal observers are trained volunteers who support the legal rights of activists. They provide basic legal guidance and are independent witnesses of police behaviour at protests.

Legal observers are independent from the protest and do not participate as activists. They support protestors by:

  • Distributing bust cards and briefing activists about their rights.
  • Keeping notes about the actions of the police on protests, which may be later used to challenge the police on their behaviour.
  • Monitoring arrests, including collecting witnesses and helping to connect the arrestee with support in the police station.

Legal observers can be identified on actions by their orange hi-viz vests that say “Legal Observer”.

Legal observers have no official legal status or privilege, but the police are often aware of the role, and legal observers may act as a deterrent to police wrongdoing.

Legal observers are not:

  • Lawyers
  • Medics (GBC has separate medics on some large actions)
  • Media spokespeople
  • Stewards or police liaison: legal observers may occasionally speak to the police to find out information, but will not pass messages between police and activists.

Contact the Independent Legal Observer Network if your group is planning an action that may need legal observers – please try to give as much notice as possible, preferably at least two weeks.

Contact the GBC Training Collective if you are interested in being trained as a legal observer.

Key Messages

Coronavirus

COVID-19 has lead to changes in policing & protest law which may affect the information in this guide. Please also read our guide to Coronavirus & Protest Law.

  • No Comment
  • You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t.

  • No Personal Details
  • You don't have to give details under ANY stop and search power.

  • No Duty Solicitor
  • Use a recommended solicitor with protest experience.

  • No Caution
  • They admit guilt for an alleged offence that might never get to court.

  • What Power?
  • Ask "What power?" to challenge a police officer to act lawfully.

Coronavirus

COVID-19 has lead to changes in policing & protest law which may affect the information in this guide. Please also read our guide to Coronavirus & Protest Law.

Key Messages

  • No Comment
  • You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t.

  • No Personal Details
  • You don't have to give details under ANY stop and search power.

  • No Duty Solicitor
  • Use a recommended solicitor with protest experience.

  • No Caution
  • They admit guilt for an alleged offence that might never get to court.

  • What Power?
  • Ask "What power?" to challenge a police officer to act lawfully.

Elsewhere