Who we are
In March 2021, a group of us (from a small village in Devon) held an online discussion to explore the controversial ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill 2021’. Specifically focused on protests and the right to protest. 51 people attended, mostly local, but some from across the UK. We are not experts. We are members of the public.
This page contains introductory information about the bill (links, videos and a few opinions/comments) plus suggestions about further reading and action. We will be adding to this page.
Hopefully, this will inspire you to learn more about this Bill, about political processes, about what it might mean … and to talk to others about it.
And we are NOT talking about violent protests or illegal actions. The police already have the right to arrest people for these.
We are talking about PEACEFUL protests.
Why should you be concerned?
The Bill contains a lot. But its main controversial areas are:
- More powers to stop protests
- “Being a nuisance” becomes a more serious statutory offence
- Sentences for damaging statues and memorials are increased (up to 10 years in prison)
- The police get more powers to prosecute gypsies and travellers
Specifically, in the area of protesting:
- Police chiefs will be able to set a start and finish time and noise limits on static protests (including protests by just one person). So, someone holding a placard and using a speaker, could be fined up to £2,500 if they refuse to follow police directions over how they should conduct their protest.
- Police can stop protests from being too noisy – when it may result in serious disruption of an organisation (any organisation!). And the Home Secretary will be able to define “serious disruption”.
- “Causing public nuisance” is already a crime – but only in common law. So there’s no explicit regulation and sentences depend upon historical precedent. But this law makes “causing public nuisance” a statutory offence with a maximum sentence of 10 years. And it expands the definition to include “annoyance”.
- Previously you could only be prosecuted if you were knowingly breaking the law. So, for example, before arresting people, police would warn protesters they were breaking the law and that they needed to move on. You then had a choice. The change means you will be prosecuted if its decided you ought to have known the law. So protesters may not know whether what they are doing is arrestable or not – until they’ve been arrested.
Want to hear about future discussion evenings?
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Recent news/articles added to this page – check back regularly
We will post new items here (as well as below). As we get new ones, we will remove them from here. So check back regularly.
- Parliamentary debate on 26 April 21 – click here
- https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/0LIDQC/ – questionnaire about why you object to the bill. Please share widely!
- Public nuisance (dissected by a lawyer) – https://rozenberg.substack.com/p/more-than-a-nuisance
- “Criticism of Section 59 has focused on its potential for affecting street protests. Little attention has been paid to online communications. How would “serious annoyance” translate from street to tweet? Is a seriously annoying tweet the same kind of thing as a seriously annoying street protest?” Read more: https://www.cyberleagle.com/2021/04/seriously-annoying-tweets.html#.YGwWcUUhuoE.twitter
Further information, articles and videos about the Bill