Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Emily Spurrell, has spoken of her concern today after the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill was passed without amendment.
The Labour Party proposed dozens of amendments to the contentious Bill, but it was approved by MPs on Monday evening by 365 votes to 265.
Having concluded all stages in the House of Commons, the Bill will now proceed to the House of Lords to be scrutinised by Peers.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “It is extremely disappointing that the controversial Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its third reading last night without amendment.
“There are elements of this Bill which cause real concern, in particular the proposed restrictions on “noisy and intimidating” protests which the police are quite clear they do not need.
“This begs the questions as to why the government wish to impose this unnecessary legislation. The right to protest is a fundamental democratic privilege so moves by ministers to restrict this are deeply worrying and place the police under greater pressure.
“This Bill provided the perfect opportunity for this government to show its commitment to the issues which are causing genuine concern in our communities – clamping down on anti-social behaviour, protecting frontline shop workers and tackling and preventing violence against women and girls.
“Sadly, that opportunity has been wasted.
“By pushing through the Bill in its current state, the government have chosen to focus their efforts on divisive measures and clamping down on legitimate forms of protest, instead of focusing on real issues such as the protection of women and increasing the minimum sentences for rapists.”
Before the Bill was passed, Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said that the government was trying to rush through Parliament “poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest”.
What is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill?
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a huge piece of legislation that covers a wide range of subjects. One part of it covers changes to the right to protest, which is probably considered the most contentious change.
What rights do those who want to protest have now?
Protests have always been the right of citizens in any democratic country. Currently, Police generally must suspect that a protest may result in “serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community” before they can place any restrictions on it. However, details of large protests, including the routes of marches, etc. are usually discussed between police and organisers weeks in advance.
What will change with the passing of the Bill?
Police will be able to put more conditions on static protests. Police will be able to impose start and finish times for a protest, set noise limits and apply these rules to a protest by just one person.
It will also become a crime for a protestor to fail to follow restrictions that they “ought” to have known about, even if police have not given a direct order.
In addition to the highly contentious parts of the BIll, there are changes that will be welcomed by many, including creating powers for closer monitoring terror offenders when they have been released from prison, changes to sexual offences law to tackle abusive adults in positions of trust, such as sports coaches and religious figures, Community sentences for less serious crimes to address underlying problems in offenders’ lives, changing sentencing rules so that serious criminals spend more time in jail before they can be conditionally released, maximum sentences for low-level assaults against emergency service workers doubled to two years and allowing Judges to consider jailing child murderers for their entire lives.