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Police Crime Sentencing and Courts bill 2021 - Infringement on Protest rights going too far?

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brad465

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This bill is currently being rushed through Parliament largely hidden from the media radar, that imposes new powers for Police in protest restrictions:


Ever since the first large-scale Extinction Rebellion protest in April last year I have been talking publicly and with the government about the potential for change to powers and to legislation that would enable the police to deal better with protests in general given that the act that we work to – the Public Order Act – is now very old, [dating to] 1986.
But specifically to deal with protests where people are not primarily violent or seriously disorderly but, as in this instance, had an avowed intent to bring policing to its knees and the city to a halt and were prepared to use the methods we all know they did to do that.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick

1. What are we going to do?​

The measures in the Bill will allow the police to take a more proactive approach in managing highly disruptive protests causing serious disruption to the public.

2. How are we going to do it?​

Provisions in the Bill will:

  • Widen the range of conditions that the police can impose on static protests, to match existing police powers to impose conditions on marches
This measure will enable the police to impose conditions such as start and finish times and maximum noise levels on static protests. The police already have the power to impose such conditions on marches.

  • Broaden the range of circumstances in which police may impose conditions on a protest
This measure will broaden the range of circumstances in which the police can impose conditions on protests, including a single person protest, to include where noise causes a significant impact on those in the vicinity or serious disruption to the running of an organisation. The Home Secretary will have the power, through secondary legislation, to define and give examples of “serious disruption to the life of the community” and “serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried out in the vicinity of the procession/assembly/one-person protest”. These regulation-making powers will clarify ambiguous cases where, if they arise, it would not be clear whether the threshold for the use of such powers have been reached. This will enable the police to make use of their powers with the confidence that they are doing so legally.

  • Amend the offence relating to the breaching of conditions
This measure will close a loophole which some protesters exploit. Some will cover their ears and tear up written conditions handed to them by the police so that they are likely to evade conviction for breaching conditions on a protest as the prosecution have to prove that the person “knowingly fails to comply with a condition imposed”. The Bill will change the threshold for the offence so that it is committed where a person “knows or ought to have known” that the condition has been imposed.

  • Restate the common law offence of public nuisance in statute
The Bill will implement a recommendation by the Law Commission to introduce a statutory offence of public nuisance, and repeal the existing common law offence. This will provide clarity to the police and potential offenders, giving clear notice of what conduct is forbidden.

  • Ensure vehicular entrances to the Parliament Estate remain unobstructed
This measure will enable the police to direct an individual to cease obstructing vehicular entrances to Parliament and make it an offence not to comply with such a direction. This will protect the right of access to the Parliamentary Estate for MPs, Peers and others with business there as recommended in the Joint Committee on Human Rights in their 2020 report on Democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of association: Threats to MPs.

The main additions seem to be on noise limits (which can be very hard to avoid) and tougher punishment for highly disruptive protests. My thinking is this is Patel getting revenge on BLM and XR, but I do think there is a lot of suppression in even peaceful protest rights in this that would be concerning, and suggests the Government is worried about what will happen once lockdown is over and restrictions are lifted (I'm aware a number of anti-Brexit protests are planned around the country in the week after June 21st, including on some weekdays).

However, I don't see how effective some of these measures will be, and if anything will be counterproductive in places. History has shown that attempting to suppress protesting and some forms of expression doesn't always reduce the amount of protesting, but serves to make them more violent (this is why the police in Bristol didn't intervene in the statue tear-down). Also police force numbers may not be able to fully control them if protestors believe the force can be outnumbered; the Coalition cut over 20,000 officers and not all of them have been reversed. Lockdown restriction enforcement, or lack of, is a test to how difficult enforcing something with mass non-compliance is. Protestors may also realise that there are not enough prison places for them all to go into, on top of the police not being able to arrest them all if there's enough of them. Furthermore if the bill passes with little press coverage (which I expect the Government would like) and/or is out of the news quickly, then it would take protestors by surprise to the point that they feel the police are going overboard and as mentioned above, could turn more violent.

What do others think?
 
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brad465

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Hmmm, I'm unsure about this. Is it the thin end of the wedge?
Depends, it could be if they'll try more in future, however it could also be argued with all the Covid-19 legislation and restrictions on liberties that they've already gone a long way.

Tonight there have been many gathering in Clapham in defiance of the cancelled vigil, and police attempts to break them up haven't helped the issue, which suggests trying to ban protesting will have counter problems. I suspect this particular issue also transcends party politics, which could make being unable to protest on issues like the legitimate and strong issue here, along with other wide-ranging societal problems a well publicised shot in the foot for the Government (Looking at what my Twitter feed is dominated by, the Met are in real trouble by the looks of things).
 

DarloRich

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It is only going to impact on unwashed student lefty lesbian eco warrior types so will be cheered from the rafters by people happy to reduce their own rights.

Perhaps we could ask the European Court to consider the issue. Oh hang on...............................
 

yorkie

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I hope events at Clapham Common tonight will result in this bill hitting the buffers.
 

brad465

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I hope events at Clapham Common tonight will result in this bill hitting the buffers.
I don't think it will, although it will give plenty of ammunition to those opposing it to argue against it. Unfortunately, tonight's events also give an insight into what the bill allows.

In the words of JFK: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

It is only going to impact on unwashed student lefty lesbian eco warrior types so will be cheered from the rafters by people happy to reduce their own rights.

Perhaps we could ask the European Court to consider the issue. Oh hang on...............................
While those are the people Patel is going after, tonight's events highlight how much she hasn't thought this through. From time to time, issues that transcend political parties come up that will include at least some of the Tory base getting behind certain protest movements, tonight being one of them, with Covid restrictions another example. At the very least things will get messy because of this legislation, I don't see large protests stopping because of them.
 
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DarloRich

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You dont undedstand. By taking part in a demonstration you are by definition an unwashed student lefty lesbian eco warrior type ;)

The PR angle is intresting here. Pictures of police arresting attractive young women will be all over the papers tomorrow. That will have more impact on the Johnson government than complaints about thier bill especially if the two are linked in the press.


EDIT - i love the section they added to deal with one man who protests outside parliament. Super snowflakey!
 
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brad465

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You dont undedstand. By taking part in a demonstration you are by definition an unwashed student lefty lesbian eco warrior type ;)

The PR angle is intresting here. Pictures of police arresting attractive young women will be all over the papers tomorrow. That will have more impact on the Johnson government than complaints about thier bill especially if the two are linked in the press.
I've looked at tomorrow's front pages and only the Sunday Times has a picture of that, with many of them going for the Duchess of Cambridge visiting the memorial (which could impact the Government into proper action itself). It's possible that the clashes made the headlines a bit too late for many papers to cover it, although it's getting BBC coverage. I don't expect the fallout from this to end this weekend though, and there will be MPs who talk about the events in Parliament on Monday in connection to this bill.
 

brad465

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It is a terrible bill. Poorly drafted.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds (and other shadow cabinet members) has confirmed Labour will be voting against the bill tomorrow (in contrast to the espionage bill they abstained on, albeit they were trapped on that one). So the question is how many, if any, Tory backbenchers will do the same, which could expose some hypocrisy if anyone against covid legislation supports this bill.
 

DaveHarries

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I know there has been a lot of condemnation directed at the Police about the events at Clapham Common. What people doing the condemning seem to be unaware of, is that while things had started peacefully there was likely a lack of social distancing once the common started to get too full (about 6pm, I gather) which means that only one person with COVID-19 could, had they attended, have infected many people there. To top it off it is worth noting that, while most of those attending the vigil left quietly when asked to do so, a number decided to throw things at the Police which resulted, according to the Met Police Federation - https://twitter.com/MPFed/status/1371143576579637250 - in 26 officers being assaulted which is wholly unacceptable.

What did those doing the throwing expect? A gold medal and no reaction? Only 4 arrests in the event. One of my friends on FB says he thinks that Priti Patel ordered the vigil to be broken up which is unlikely: the decision would have been taken at a local level.

Dave
 

Watershed

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while things had started peacefully there was likely a lack of social distancing once the common started to get too full (about 6pm, I gather) which means that only one person with COVID-19 could, had they attended, have infected many people there
No. Even Whitty has gone on record as saying that outdoor gatherings are not really a danger. It was pretty windy on the night of the vigil, so anyone who had Covid and was spreading virus particles would have had the particles swept away long before infecting anyone else around them.

The claim that the police's actions were somehow justified by the danger to public health is simply not supported, not even by the government's excessively cautious advisers.
 

brad465

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Protestors certainly seem to be making the most of their right to protest before the vote on this bill, today both Westminster Bridge and Parliament square have been filled with them, continuing on from the weekend. Even the June protests largely died down between weekends despite many still being off work under covid restrictions.
 

AshBod

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I'm sure all those Tories who vote for this bill will be complaining when the police start cracking skulls from the pro fox hunting lobby when they cause a nuisance or an annoyance.

The problem with bringing in laws for a political purpose (ie to stop BLM and extinction rebellion protests) it will also cover protests for causes that members of the cabinet or the Tory benches might actually support some day.
 

Gostav

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I think in most European countries if people illegal blocked the streets or roads which deliberately disrupted traffic for the protest would be an uncontroversial crime or even a felony in some country.
In Finland, the police did not had much patience with those Extinction Rebellion protesters who blocked the street.
 

brad465

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I'm sure all those Tories who vote for this bill will be complaining when the police start cracking skulls from the pro fox hunting lobby when they cause a nuisance or an annoyance.

The problem with bringing in laws for a political purpose (ie to stop BLM and extinction rebellion protests) it will also cover protests for causes that members of the cabinet or the Tory benches might actually support some day.
The Tories will probably try and allow those sort of protests to go ahead. However that doesn't mean they won't be hijacked by the sort of people they don't want there.
 

DynamicSpirit

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This bill is currently being rushed through Parliament largely hidden from the media radar, that imposes new powers for Police in protest restrictions:


The main additions seem to be on noise limits (which can be very hard to avoid) and tougher punishment for highly disruptive protests. My thinking is this is Patel getting revenge on BLM and XR, but I do think there is a lot of suppression in even peaceful protest rights in this that would be concerning, and suggests the Government is worried about what will happen once lockdown is over and restrictions are lifted (I'm aware a number of anti-Brexit protests are planned around the country in the week after June 21st, including on some weekdays).

I have to admit to also being somewhat unsure. My instinct when I first saw the headlines was that I'd be opposed to curbs on freedom to demonstrate. But I've just read through the full text of the link, and I'm finding it hard to see anything specific in it that looks really objectionable. I guess a lot is going to come down to interpretation. The detail about noise says

WwwGovUk said:
This measure will broaden the range of circumstances in which the police can impose conditions on protests, including a single person protest, to include where noise causes a significant impact on those in the vicinity or serious disruption to the running of an organisation. The Home Secretary will have the power, through secondary legislation, to define and give examples of “serious disruption to the life of the community” and “serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried out in the vicinity of the procession/assembly/one-person protest”.

So I guess whether that's objectionable may depend a bit on what appears in the secondary legislation. It did though cross my mind though that if the Government is concerned about noise then - more police powers to do something about noisy/antisocial neighbours, and doing something about traffic noise would be a far bigger help to most people than dealing with noise at (relatively rare by comparison) demonstrations!
 

Watershed

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So I guess whether that's objectionable may depend a bit on what appears in the secondary legislation
The problem is that secondary legislation is not really subject to any kind of parliamentary scrutiny (merely receiving a rubber-stamping vote). It could also dramatically alter what this Act is making a criminal offence.

There is nothing wrong with secondary legislation being used for appropriate tasks - indeed it would be wholly unworkable for Parliament to have to define the minutiae of scientific matters, for example.

However, it is completely inappropriate, and typical of the current government, to use secondary legislation to define the key essence of what an Act is seeking to criminalise.

There is also the issue of how the common law offence of public nuisance is being put on the books. Again, nothing wrong with that: in fact it's always better to have these things clearly defined.

But using the codification of a common law offence as an excuse for massively widening the scope of what is considered a "public nuisance" is simply not acceptable. Things such as 'causing a risk of serious annoyance' were never within the remit of public nuisance before. It doesn't take much imagination to see what sort of behaviour that could be applied to :lol: :



The current government's populist tendencies are blatantly obvious - even Theresa May went as far as to say that. One can but hope that it backfires on them.
 
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AshBod

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The Tories will probably try and allow those sort of protests to go ahead. However that doesn't mean they won't be hijacked by the sort of people they don't want there.
Well luckily for them operational decisions are made by the police and not politicians so maybe when another lockdown happens in September some MPs might regret it if they attend an anti lockdown protest!
 
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