No law to ground aircraft flying with banners over Headingley ground

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Banners flying on the Headingley Cricket Ground with political messages have caught attention during the ICC World Cup 2019 matches in Leeds. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has made a formal complaint to the International Cricket Council about the aircraft flying over the stadium with anti-India messages on toed banners.

ICC or the British authorities cannot restrict these banners, which can be flown over the stadium for as little as £ 600. The UK Laws protect such banners under freedom of speech and the skies over the stadium are not a ‘no fly zone’.

There are no restrictions on flying a chartered plane over an area that is not a no fly zone, UK-based private jets rental company PrivateFly has told national daily Indian Express. Even the Leeds Police says “it is their right”.

Leeds does not restrict aircrafts from flying over the Headingley ground. Similarly political activists are protected under “freedom of speech” for displaying such banners.

Chief Superintendent Steve Cotter, Leeds District commander, in a statement by West Yorkshire Police had confirmed they did not have the power to stop aerial messaging, the paper has reported.

“In our democratic society, people have the legal right to protest, and a balance always needs to be struck between that right and the rights and freedoms of others to go about their lawful business. We had no prior knowledge of the initial flyovers on either occasion but when they were brought to our attention, we assessed the content of the messages being free speech that did not constitute any criminal offence,” said Cotter.

“We also liaised with air traffic control who confirmed that the flights were legitimate and in keeping with their regulations for this controlled airspace. As such, no assurances were given by us to the International Cricket Council that any further flights would be prevented, nor would we have any legal basis for doing so.”

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