UK Tory government intends to criminalise the fundamental democratic right to protest
5 WAYS THE GOVERNMENT’S POLICING BILL JUST WENT FROM BAD TO WORSE
Jun Pang – Policy and Campaigns Officer on 02 Dec 2021 at Liberty
Not content with the already draconian powers in the [Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts] Bill to shut down protests and criminalise people trying to make their voices heard, the Government has recently added amendments to it.
1. LOCKING ON
Locking on only needs to be “capable” of causing serious disruption to “two or more people”. On top of that, no one knows what “serious disruption” means because it’s not defined in the Bill. Instead, the Home Secretary will get to define and re-define it at will.
2. WILFUL OBSTRUCTION OF THE HIGHWAY
The current punishment for someone who wilfully obstructs the highway is a fine. Amendments to the Policing Bill will change it to up to 51 weeks in prison, a fine, or both.
Such heavy punishments will stop people taking to the streets to stand up to power – and will add to existing pressures on courts, prisons, and the probation service.
3. OBSTRUCTION OF MAJOR TRANSPORT WORKS
This is another new offence that a person commits if they obstruct someone from taking any steps connected to the construction or maintenance of any major transport works, or they in any way interfere with “any apparatus” relating to that construction or maintenance.
4. STOP AND SEARCH
The Government’s amendments will also expand stop and search. Police will be able to stop and search a person or vehicle for items intended for use in connection with the offences in the Bill: obstructing the highway, public nuisance, locking on, and obstructing major transport works.
Police will also be able to put orders in place allowing for ‘suspicion-less’ stop and search for these items in a specific location for up to 24 hours (and up to 48 hours, if authorised).
5. SERIOUS DISRUPTION PREVENTION ORDERS – PROTEST BANNING ORDERS
People given a protest banning order will be subject to a set of conditions, including not associating with certain people, going to certain places, carrying certain items, or using the internet in a certain way.
They can last for up to two years, but there is no limit to the number of times a protest banning order can be renewed by the court.
Protest is a fundamental right, but protest banning orders effectively ban people from organising and making their voices heard, striking at the heart of what makes protest meaningful and effective: political community.
These new offences will either deter people from protesting, or drag them into the criminal justice system for doing so. They will further entrench discrimination, with devastating consequences for marginalised communities.
But they are’t law yet, and this Government buckles under public pressure and u-turns time and again.
If you haven’t yet signed the petition against the Policing Bill, do so today.
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