Right of Petition
On Thursday, August 19th 1909, eight members of the Women's Freedom League (Mrs Despard, Mrs Cobden-Sanderson, Miss Irene Tillard, Mrs Edith Cranstoun, Mrs Lilian Hicks, Miss Lily Boileau, Miss Janet Bunten and Mrs Claredon Hyde), were arrested at different times in Downing Street (where they had gone to present a petition to Mr Asquith) and charged with 'obstructing the police in the execution of their duty'.
The case, remanded till Friday, August 27th, came before Mr Curtis Bennett at Bow Street. Mr Barker prosecuted for the Commissioner of Police; Mr T M Healy, K.C., M.P. and Mr Evans (instructed by Messrs. Baker and Baker) appeared for the defence.
Prosecuting for the Crown, Mr Barker's points were:
i. That while the Commissioner of Police did not deny the right to petition, the defendants were not in Downing Street to present a petition, but to 'foist' themselves on Mr Asquith.
ii. That their 'petition' was not in proper form, and in fact was called a 'remonstrance' on the printed sheet.
iii. That even assuming they were exercising a constitutional right, they were not exercising this right reasonably.
Police evidence of the arrests was given, and Mr Healy, after his cross-examination of these witnesses, felt it was unnecessary to call any witnesses for the defence.