Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a proposed Act of the United Kingdom Parliament sponsored by the Home Office and Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for the Home Department.[1][2] The Bill proposes to "overhaul" police, criminal justice, and sentencing legislation, and encompasses disparate areas of existing law including knife crime, protests, crimes against children, and sentencing limits.

Contents[edit]

The bill, which is over 300 pages long, includes major proposals by the Johnson government to reform the criminal justice system.[3][4] As criminal justice is largely a devolved matter, the provisions of the bill primarily only extend to England and Wales, although some provisions apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.[5]

Proposals in the Bill include allowing judges to give whole life orders (life imprisonment with no possibility of parole) for the premeditated murder of a child, life sentences for drivers who kill behind the wheel, and increasing the maximum sentence from 3 months to 10 years for criminal damage to a memorial.[6]

Effects of the Bill on Protests[edit]

Part 3 of the bill gives police forces broad authority to place restrictions on protests and public assembly. Under previous UK legislation, police must show that a protest may cause "serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community" before imposing any restrictions.[3] Under this bill, police forces will be allowed to criminalise protests they believe constitute a "public nuisance", including imposing starting and finishing times and noise limits, and will be able to consider actions by one individual as "protests" under provisions of the bill.[3][4]

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the Act 'updates' the Public Order Act and drew a distinction between peaceful protest and "activities which inhibit the lives of people."[7] Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice, said regarding the Bill and protests "We've got to think about the sometimes huge inconvenience caused to other people going about their lawful business, ...".[8]

Response[edit]

The Bill was welcomed by the Police Federation of England and Wales.[9] In contrast with the Police Federation, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, a group of elected officials in England and Wales, registered their disagreement with the Bill. On the topic of proposed legally-binding restrictions on protests, Paddy Tipping, Chair of the APCC, stated "I think politicians would be wise to leave decisions to the responsible people … they've got to leave people to make local decisions in local circumstances."[10]

The pressure group Liberty claimed the Bill "threatens protest".[11] Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner highlighted how the proposals would criminalise "serious annoyance".[12] Broadcaster and writer Kenan Malik warned the Bill reduced the right to protest to "whispering in the corner".[13]

Protests against the bill[edit]

Thousands of protestors against the bill gathered in College Green in Bristol city centre on Sunday, 21 March 2021, in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.[14] Some held placards reading "Kill the bill" amongst other slogans. The protestors marched through the city centre without intervention, before a confrontation between police and a few hundred protestors staging a sit-in at Bridewell Police Station led to an outbreak of violence in which, it was claimed, two assaulted police officers were left with serious injuries.[15][16] Police vehicles were set alight and protestors were visually recorded attempting to set fire to a police vehicle with officers inside.[17] Protestors set off fireworks, and the police station was graffitied and damaged by protesters.[18][15] Avon and Somerset Police claimed that two police officers suffered broken bones and a collapsed lung as a result of conflict with the protestors, which was widely reported in the media. However, on 25 March the police retracted their statement, stating no officer had suffered a broken bone or collapsed lung.[19] There was also controversy over the alleged assault of Daily Mirror journalist Matthew Dresch on 26 March, as video footage was released that showed the journalist being pushed and hit with a baton while stating that he was a journalist – which police appeared to acknowledge – as well as a woman in her 20s. It was later reported that a high-ranking officer with Avon and Somerset had "extended apologies" for the incident.[20]

Subsequent "Kill the Bill" protests were held in Bristol on Tuesday 23 March[21] and Friday 26 March,[22] and in Manchester and Sheffield[23] on 27 March.[24]

The Easter weekend saw protests in London, Bristol, Guildford, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Brighton, Weymouth and Luton.[25][26] Advocacy group Liberty said they would take legal action against the Metropolitan Police following the arrests of two legal observers.[27]

Progress through Parliament[edit]

The bill's second reading was on 15–16 March 2021.[28] It passed to the committee stage by 359 votes to 263,[29][30] however, this has reportedly been delayed.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Justice overhaul to better protect the public and back our police". Home Office. 9 March 2021. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  2. ^ Cross, Michael (9 March 2021). "Tougher sentences on menu in 'restore confidence' bill". The Law Society Gazette. Archived from the original on 16 March 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Casciani, Dominic (22 March 2021). "What is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and how will it change protests?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 24 March 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b Specia, Megan (23 March 2021). "What Are the 'Kill the Bill' Protests in Britain All About?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  5. ^ Hirst, David; Beard, Jacqueline; Brown, Jennifer; Dawson, Joanna; Lipscombe, Sally (23 March 2021). "Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2019-21: Background". House of Commons Library. Archived from the original on 24 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Child abuse laws to be expanded in England and Wales". BBC News. 9 March 2021. Archived from the original on 13 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  7. ^ "Government defends plans for noise limit at protests". 14 March 2021. Archived from the original on 14 March 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  8. ^ Merrick, Rob (9 March 2021). "New crackdown on Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter needed due to 'huge inconvenience', minister says". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  9. ^ "PFEW campaigns result in new laws to better protect police officers". Police Federation. 9 March 2021. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  10. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (16 March 2021). "New protest laws 'go too far' and are not needed, police commissioners say". The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  11. ^ "Policing bill threatens protest rights". Liberty. 9 March 2021. Archived from the original on 17 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  12. ^ Wagner, Adam [@AdamWagner1] (14 March 2021). "The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill going through Parliament tomorrow would hugely expand their powers to allow them to stop protests which would cause "serious unease" and create criminal penalties for people who cause "serious annoyance" (2/3)" (Tweet). Retrieved 26 March 2021 – via Twitter.
  13. ^ Malik, Kenan (14 March 2021). "If you thought the right to protest was inalienable, then think again". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Thousands march through Bristol for 'Kill the Bill' protest". ITV News. 21 March 2021. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Bristol protest: Police attacked as 'Kill the Bill' demo turns violent". BBC News. 22 March 2021. Archived from the original on 24 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  16. ^ Cock, Thomas (22 March 2021). "How Kill the Bill protest became a violent night of riots in Bristol". BristolLive. Reach plc. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Bristol riot: Officer describes being inside police van as protester tried to set it on fire". SKY. 25 March 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  18. ^ Skopeliti, Clea (22 March 2021). "'Kill the bill' protest in Bristol condemned as 'thuggery and disorder'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  19. ^ Skopeliti, Clea (25 March 2021). "Police quietly retract claim officers broke bones during Bristol 'Kill the Bill' protests". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 March 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  20. ^ "Police under fire for 'assault' of journalist at Bristol protest". www.theguardian.com. 27 March 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  21. ^ "Bristol protests: Police action at Kill the Bill demo". www.bbc.co.uk. 24 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  22. ^ "Kill the Bill protesters march in Bristol city centre". www.bbc.co.uk. 26 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  23. ^ by Emily Staniforth, Phoebe Fuller; Updated19:13, 27 Mar 2021 (27 March 2021). "Huge sit down Kill the Bill protest takes over Sheffield – as it happened". YorkshireLive. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  24. ^ "Kill the Bill Manchester protest: 18 arrested after protesters block tram lines". www.bbc.co.uk. 27 March 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Kill the Bill protests: Defend right to protest, Corbyn tells marchers". www.bbc.co.uk. 3 April 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  26. ^ "'Kill the Bill', 100 Guildford Protesters March – MP Says Bill Will Stop Threats to Public Order". The Guildford Dragon. 5 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  27. ^ Dawson, Bethany (4 April 2021). "Kill the Bill protests: Arrests of legal observers an 'intimidatory tactic', says Liberty". The Independent. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  28. ^ "Commons Hansard for 15 March 2021 (Volume 691)". Hansard. Archived from the original on 4 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – Volume 691: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2021". Hansard. Archived from the original on 17 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  30. ^ Walker, Peter (16 March 2021). "Bill that curtails ability to protest in England and Wales passes second reading". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  31. ^ Westwater, Hannah (19 March 2021). "Policing bill delay 'shows that protest works'". The Big Issue. Archived from the original on 21 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.

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