Despite opposition, UK parliament endorses bill cracking down on ‘annoying’ protests
London, March 17, 2021 (AltAfrica)-A controversial bill that would give police more powers to crack down on protests has cleared its first hurdle in the Commons, paving the way for it to become law.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its second reading on Tuesday night by 359-263 – a majority of 96 – and was overwhelmingly backed by Tory MPs.
The legislation would make non-violent protests or ‘intentionally reckless acts’ without a ‘reasonable excuse’ that cause ‘serious annoyance’ or are judged to be too ‘noisy’, punishable with a fine or up to 10 years in jail in theory.
It would be a crime to ‘intentionally or recklessly cause public nuisance’ that cause ‘intimidation or serious unease’ and ‘impact’ the community without a ‘reasonable excuse’.
Metro UK reports that the 307-page Bill also proposes to increase the maximum penalty for those who destroy or damage a memorial from three months to 10 years.
Police would also have the power to tell one-person protests to stop shouting and could impose noise limits and start and finish times on gatherings.
The ‘controlled area’ where protests are banned around Parliament would also be extended.
Labour had tabled an amendment to block the legislation from receiving a second reading – but their defeat means it will now move onto the next Parliamentary stage and is a step closer to becoming law.
Sir Keir Starmer had told his MPs to vote against the Bill saying it contained ‘next to nothing’ to counteract violence against women and girls but included ‘lots of stuff on statues’.
Opposition MPs had backed some sections of the legislation such as tougher sentences for serious crimes including child murder and sex offences – but warned it ‘rushes’ changes to protest laws and ‘fails’ to better protect women.
Hundreds yesterday marched through central London in protest of the Bill and violence against women in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death.
The outcry against the Met Police’s handling of a vigil held in memory of the 33-year-old on Saturday has sparked a fresh focus on the Bill.