Keep changes made to 'draconian' bill on protests, charities urge government

A coalition of civil society organisations says the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill risks 'destroying people’s right to protest'

(Photograph: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Charities have urged the government to uphold changes made by peers to the controversial policing bill that risks “destroying people’s right to protest”. 

Members of the House of Lords last night inflicted a series of defeats on measures contained in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which includes tough new laws on matters including protests. 

Peers voted against measures including an amendment that would have allowed police to impose conditions on a protest if they believed the noise generated by it could result in serious disruption to those nearby. 

They rejected the introduction of Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, which could impose conditions on individuals such as limiting their ability to associate with certain people, be at particular places at certain times or use the internet in specified ways. 

Lords also threw out an amendment that would create a new criminal offence of interfering with the use or operation of infrastructure such as road or rail transport and a proposal that would expand police stop and search powers in relation to protest. 

The Police Bill Alliance, an informal coalition of civil society organisations including the NGO umbrella body Bond, Friends of the Earth, Quakers in Britain and the campaign group Liberty, has today urged the government to uphold the changes to the bill as the legislation returns to the House of Commons.  

“Peers have rightly rejected some of the most extreme proposals in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill,” the coalition said in a statement. 

“We are grateful to every peer who stayed late to push back against this draconian bill which seeks to destroy the right to protest in the UK."

The group said many of the measures criminalising protest remained in the bill, which it said could result in people being sentenced to 10 years in prison for causing “serious annoyance”. 

The alliance said: “This bill is just part of a suite of legislation going through parliament which attacks our fundamental rights and undermines democracy in the UK. 

“Be it stripping people of their British citizenship without warning, or allowing ministers to throw out court decisions they disagree with – placing politics above the law, we are now entering dangerous waters when it comes to Britain's civic freedoms and democracy.”

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