Final days of Police Bill Committee Stage

If you make protests impossible to perform legally, criminalise non-violent direct action, abolish or restrict the ability of citizens to challenge the Government in court through judicial reviews, turn people against lawyers, gerrymander the election boundaries and dish out cash in the way that looks best for Conservative MPs, that is deep, dark politics. Many of us here are not particularly political and perhaps do not see the dangers inherent in what the Government are doing. It all seems like a calculated ploy to turn all the cards in favour of an unaccountable Government that cannot be challenged in the courts, at the ballot box or on the streets. 

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Police Bill Day 9 of 7

We are world leading in the awful way in which we treat children. At 10, we have the lowest age in Europe for criminal responsibility – far below the suggestion from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child of a minimum appropriate age of 14. That is the average across European countries, but even China and Russia – where the UK rightly often has cause to point out human rights abuses – have higher ages of criminal responsibility than we do. Continue reading “Police Bill Day 9 of 7”

Government by-pass MPs on new policing laws

Pages of new amendments to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill have been submitted by the government as the legislation is half way through the Lords Committee stage. The new laws target “locking-on” and other forms of nonviolent protest, as well as giving police officers the ability to stop and search without suspicion.

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Police Bill day 8 of Committee Stage in Lords

We have abysmal conditions in many jails and they are not the place for a pregnant woman. The Howard League for Penal Reform has highlighted the fact that pregnant women in prison are routinely denied access to suitable maternity care and that babies have died as a result. Women in prison should receive at a minimum the same standard of maternity services as women outside. When we punish these women in prison, we also punish their babies, and that cannot be right. Getting this right will change the lives of prisoners and families, and have an impact for generations. Continue reading “Police Bill day 8 of Committee Stage in Lords”

Police Bill day 7 of Committee Stage in Lords

Mandatory prison sentences could lead to a repeat of what happens in the USA with their obscene rates of incarceration: nearly 1% of the American population is in prison or jail, and this is very racially unbalanced. It is easy for the Government to increase prison sentences and set mandatory minimum sentences; it is much more difficult, but more important, to deliver real rehabilitation and diversion so that people do not reoffend and we do not take up huge amounts of taxpayers’ money keeping them in prison. Continue reading “Police Bill day 7 of Committee Stage in Lords”

Police Bill Day 6 of Committee Stage in the Lords – Road danger

At some point in history, it became acceptable for people to be killed by cars—pedestrians and cyclists. Other drivers just became collateral damage for our car-obsessed culture. There seems to be a horrific gap between the penalties for killing someone with your car and killing someone in any other way.

Road safety campaigners ask that we do not use the word “accident”, because that presupposes that it was accidental. It prejudges the situation, and that is clearly not right when something might come to court. They ask instead that we use the words “incident”, “collision” or even “crash”, but not “accident”. There is also an argument for saying that we should not use the words “road safety”, because that is the solution to the problem; the problem itself is “road danger”. We have to get our head around these differences, because it changes the way we perceive such situations.

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Why I wear both the red and white poppy

Remembrance Day is about joining together to respect the dead

I wear a red poppy, but I wear a white one too. One of the defining features of modern wars is the vast numbers of civilians who are killed as well. Over 140,000 civilians are estimated to have died in the Iraq war or its aftermath. The white poppy is one way of remembering them. From those thousands in Iraq to the Londoners who died in the blitz and the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the white poppy speaks for them. When the red wreaths are laid at the cenotaph and at numerous memorials around the country, would a wreath of white poppies be out of place? Should we remember all of the dead, or only those in uniforms?

I feel that the dead from the numerous conflicts and wars need to be remembered. The reasons why we remember them will vary. For some, it is the loss of relatives or friends. For others, it is the result of unpopular political decisions. Whatever the reason, the dead should not be forgotten.

The white poppy was first introduced by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 and is now sold by the Peace Pledge Union. Their motto is “War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.”

That belief; that we should not only remember the dead but also think about the reasons they died, has always been surrounded by controversy. Some women lost their jobs in the 1930s for wearing the white poppy, on the basis that their campaign undermined those who were killed in service.

In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher expressed her distaste for the white poppy. I hope Theresa May and other senior politicians will refrain from being equally divisive. If not wearing a red poppy or wearing a white one is “making a statement”, then why is a red poppy not a statement? Why have statements become undesirable? Surely the point of Remembrance Day is to give us a collective space to think about it all?

The Royal British Legion works extremely hard to ensure that the families of people in the services are supported, but seems fairly relaxed and plays down the controversy. They say on their website:  “We have no objection to white poppies, or any group expressing their views. We see no conflict in wearing the red poppy alongside the white poppy.”

Remembrance Day is about joining together to respect the dead and we each have our own memories when we do so. Personally, I respect the dead by taking a moment to think, to question and to act according to my conscience. I hope that everyone else is given the chance to do the same.

White poppies can be bought here

Red poppies will hopefully be available on your local high street.

Police Bill – Day 5 of Committee Stage in the Lords

I had to laugh when I saw the amendments on duty of candour, because you sort of assume you can expect a duty of candour for the police; it really should not have to be emphasised in the way that it has been here.

As regards the criminalisation of trespass, it is wonderful to see such a huge coalition of Peers tabling amendments and speaking on this issue. I imagine that Gypsy and Roma Travellers, peaceful protesters, van-lifers, wild campers and anyone else threatened by this proposed legislation will be glad to see the opposition that is coalescing in this House. Far from criminalising trespass, we should be opening up more land for access to the public and enhancing our enjoyment of our magnificent countryside. This is a nasty section of the Bill, it is discriminatory and dangerous, we should remove these clauses completely.

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Police Bill – Day 4 of Committee Stage in the Lords

We need a statutory, judge-led inquiry into the murder of Sarah Everard. It cannot be allowed to drift past without real challenge by a judge. This was not somebody pretending to be a police officer: this was a real police officer abusing his position to abduct, rape and kill. The fact that he had a reputation already in the police is extremely damaging. This is a culture that we all know exists, and it should be fixed.

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Police Bill – Days 2&3 of Committee Stage in the Lords: Amendments on Privacy and Serious Violence

I have made no secret of the fact that I think that this is an appalling Bill. When I started looking at the amendments, I had to struggle not to sign up to all of them, because they all made sense.

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