Home Secretary Priti Patel urged people not to participate in large gatherings or to attend protests while Covid-19 regulations remain in place but hundreds gathered in Parliament Square to fight against the bill. It includes plans to give police more powers to tackle non-violent protests which cause significant disruption to the public or on access to Parliament. But police and legal figures have warned this could pose a threat to democracy.
It has been claimed the “rushed” legislation could pose a threat to free speech rights and make the job of officers policing protests harder.
As part of efforts to overhaul the justice system, the Government is proposing a raft of measures in its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday.
The proposed law includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”.
According to the Bill, someone commits this crime if they cause “serious harm to the public”, which can include “serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity”. Those convicted could face a fine or jail.
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The plans could also see police given powers to impose more conditions on static protests, like time and noise limits, and extend the rules to one-person demonstrations.
Police and legal figures have warned this could pose a threat to democracy.
Sir Peter Fahy, former Greater Manchester Police chief constable told Times Radio there was a “real danger” that rushed legislation could make the job of the police “more difficult”, adding: “People need to be really worried about this.”
He said: “If we’ve learned one thing this weekend, it’s the right to protest, the right to gather, the right to have a voice is fundamental to our democracy, and particularly British democracy.”
More to follow…