The Lords deleted nearly 18 pages of the most draconian restrictions on the right to peaceful protest from the Policing Bill, but the government are now trying to bring them back. This must be opposed.
The government want to stop any protest that might get noticed and be effective. They have already got the right to ban noisy protests, now they want to clamp down on all the other forms of peaceful, non violent protest that people use to get attention. And that’s the crucial point – protestors are just people. People who work, pay taxes, study, or collect the pensions they have earned. People who see something wrong and want it to stop. People like you and me.
People do not approve of crackdowns on protest because there are times when they themselves want to protest. They want to protest about a crossing that is in the wrong place on their own road or to complain about cars idling outside their children’s school. People protest. It is all very well to call them “protesters” but actually they are just people.
Obstructing the highway should not land anyone in prison for a year. You can still be put into prison for a year even if the roads have already been closed by a traffic authority. When roads in Sheffield, sometimes quite minor ones, were closed for trees to be cut down, local people who were furious about that and were doing their best to stop it protested on those closed roads. Under the Bill, they could have faced up to 51 weeks in prison for protesting on their own road to try to protect their own trees. Peaceful protesters should never face jail. The original government amendment was bad and the compromise is also bad.
The House of Lords inflicted a staggering 14 defeats on the government in one historic evening, with a further 5 government amendments being withdrawn.
The Lords seized their chance to reject most of the 18 pages of late government amendments to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill. This forces Ministers to either drop these proposals or bring them back in completely separate legislation at a later date. The Lords only have this power on very rare occasions because the government introduced the amendments late and by-passed scrutiny in the commons.
Since the last General Election gave the Conservative Party an 80+ seat majority of MPs in the Commons, they have pushed through some bad legislation. When these Bills come to the Lords, it’s our job to look at them line by line and try to improve them by carefully considered amendments. Which mostly the Tory-dominated Commons immediately throw out*.
Have a good festive break and stay safe from whichever Covid variant is near you. Recharge those batteries because we are going to need your help defeating the 18 pages of draconian laws that the government submitted as late amendments to the Police and Crime Bill.
This debate comes after a few years of increasing suppression of civil liberties and human rights here in the UK. Freedom of speech is about engaging with all sorts of ideas, biases and creeds to make up the public discourse. As a Green, I am well aware of how important it is to talk and try to convince people about the environmental crisis—especially those in power who can actually do something about it, however little. I might regard this Government as political enemies, and as arrogant and repressive, but I think it is worth engaging and very much hope they feel it is worth engaging with Greens.
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.
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.
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.
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.