Graham Colley, Liberal Democrat candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Election for Kent has called for the withdrawal of the Police, Courts and Sentencing Bill, which was only published on 9th March and is having its second reading in Parliament today, 15 March, with little time for consideration of its sweeping powers.
"I join in the calls for withdrawal of the horrendous new Police, Courts and Sentencing Bill, which will severely limit peaceful protest. That bill, ordered by Priti Patel following the Black Lives Matter and extinction rebellion demonstrations last year, is due to be debated in Parliament tomorrow. Once the right to protest is lost, it may never be regained.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick also called for more powers: "specifically to deal with protests where people are not primarily violent or seriously disorderly but, as in this instance, had an avowed intent to bring policing to its knees and the city to a halt"- Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick
The Clapham Common incident shows that the Metropolitan Police cannot be trusted with extra powers when they fail to use prudence with the powers they already have.
In its background paper the government says it wishes to "strengthen police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect on the public or on access to parliament". But the way loose wording and its sweeping powers to allow criminalise public nuisance (whether intentional or reckless) where there is the making of "noise" or "serious annoyance" shows it has been ill thought-out. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment is disproportionate compared to other offences.
The Bill even seeks to outlaw one-man protests like those of Steve Bray ("Mr Stop Brexit"). Graham Colley, who is also president of Lib Dem lawyers/Rights-Liberties-Justice said: "whilst we all back our police, Clapham Common shows that they must be given clear guidance and should not be expected to interpret the law which is vague or loosely drafted. This bill with its sweeping powers and poor drafting is the opposite of what our police need to ensure that democratic right to protest is upheld.
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