Restrictions on protests in the controversial new policing bill breach human rights laws and will increase the risk of peaceful demonstrators in England and Wales being criminalised.
MPs and peers have warned the ‘police, crime, sentencing and courts bill,’ which has provoked widespread protests, contains provisions that are unnecessary and disproportionate and offers unacceptably wide and vague powers to curb demonstrations to the Home Secretary and police.
Parliament’s joint committee on human rights says clauses which allow restrictions to be imposed on protests “because of the noise they generate,” create powers to limit one-person demonstrations and increase penalties on people who breach conditions placed on protests should all be scrapped.
Harriet Harman, the committee’s chair, said:
“One of our most fundamental rights is to protest. It is the essence of our democracy. To do that, we need to make ourselves heard. The government proposals to allow police to restrict ‘noisy’ protests are oppressive and wrong. The government put forward new powers in areas where the police already have access to powers and offences which are perfectly adequate. The government has served up confusion where clarity and precision is essential.”
Demonstrations against the bill have been held across England and Wales, including weeks of protests in Bristol where there were clashes between police and protesters who accused officers of being too aggressive.