New police powers to break up non-violent protests
by MATTHEW DOOLEY
The Government has unveiled new legislation that will overhaul the justice system and gives police the power to break up non-violent protests.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill was met with a mixed response after its first reading in the House of Commons on March 9.
According to a government press release, the bill gives police the power to: “tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect on the public or on access to Parliament.”
In addition, anyone criminally vandalising memorials could be put into prison for up to 10-years.
Some activists were concerned that the bill would infringe on their right to protest, citing Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protests as potentially being affected by the proposed law.
The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) has begun circulating a petition on twitter denouncing the bill calling it a “crackdown on freedom to protest.”
Conservatives, however, have praised the bill as supporting police and being tough on crime.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a press release: “On becoming Home Secretary, I vowed to back the police to cut crime and make our streets safer…this Bill delivers on that promise.”
Labour was largely supportive of the bill with Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, the Shadow Home Secretary, stating: “While Labour has been calling for a number of these changes, they will not go far enough to tackle violence against officers.”
The Bill also includes provisions to:
- Increase police authority to stop and search suspected knife carriers
- Introduce criminal penalties to unauthorized encampments
- Give “whole life sentences” to people convicted of the premeditated murdered of a child
- Close a loophole that would have allowed coaches and religious figures to avoid prosecution for having sex with 16- and 17-year old’s
- Introduce life sentences for “killer drivers”
- Double the maximum sentence for assaults on police and emergency workers