Getting to grips with . . .

The police, crime and sentencing bill explained

Labour and human rights groups oppose government’s planned crackdown on right to protest

Labour has vowed to vote down “poorly thought-out” new crime and sentencing legislation that will give police sweeping new powers to restrict public protests.

Amid widespread criticism of the Metropolitan Police's heavy-handed approach at a Saturday vigil for murdered London woman Sarah Everard, shadow justice secretary David Lammy last night tweeted that “this is no time for the government to impose disproportionate controls on the right to protest”.

However, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins told Times Radio that “we have been very clear that we are listening to all suggestions”, as the government prepares its latest violence against women and girls strategy. Atkins added: “We absolutely want to understand what people’s experiences are and what we can do to address those.”

What is in the bill?

MPs are today debating the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “which will significantly beef up police and state powers to crackdown on protests”, says the i news site.

The legislation will boost police powers for tackling “so-called static protests” such as the Extinction Rebellion protests that brought London to a standstill, by “imposing start and finish times” and “maximum noise limits”, the site continues.

The 307-page bill also includes reforms to “make it easier convict protesters for ignoring conditions placed on a protest” and to prevent demonstrations from being held “around Parliament”, as well as “reinstating the offence of creating a public nuisance into common law”.

More than 150 rights organisations have co-signed a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland warning that the legislation would be “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens”. 

The government must “fundamentally rethink its approach”, says the letter, which has been seen by The Guardian and signed by groups including Liberty, Big Brother Watch, Unite, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Unlock Democracy and Extinction Rebellion,

Is the legislation likely to become law?

Keir Starmer yesterday instructed his MPs to vote against the policing bill, in what The Guardian describes as a “significant intervention”.

The Labour leader said that although the bill has “lots of stuff on statues”, with new offences for destroying or damaging a memorial, it contains “next to nothing” on countering violence against women and girls.

Lammy also urged ministers to veto the “poorly thought-out” legislation, with fellow Labour MP Jess Philips tweeting that the plan “does absolutely nothing currently to increase sentences for rapists, stalkers, or those who batter, control and abuse women”. 

Conservative Party co-chair Amanda Milling responded by tweeting that it was “shocking Labour’s trying to block tough new laws to keep people safe, including many vital measures to protect women from violent criminals”.

But some Tory MPs also “have serious reservations about the bill”, according to the newspaper.

Pundits predict that any Tory rebellion in the Commons vote will not be large enough to inflict defeat on the government, however.

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