Updated: Mar 4
By Kristen Palmer
As the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill reaches its final steps before being enacted into law, it has attracted widespread criticism from activists, racial justice groups and the parliament’s joint committee on human rights. These amendments have been specifically described as “oppressive and wrong”, with an ability to socially isolate younger people and their mental health.
What do the amendments include?
Amongst these amendments are anti-protest measures, where the police are able to ban demonstrations that are deemed to be “seriously disruptive”. This includes sentences of up to 51 weeks for the protestors involved, and 10 years for those guilty of a desecration of a statue. This has resulted in an open letter by more than 350 clinicians and academics, detailing that this deters young people from acting at all, leading them into inaction and isolation. This bill is designed to rob young people of initiative and agency by disabling strong engagement.
Reaction to amendments
It has been suggested that the policing bill should act against violence towards women and provide support for victims of crime, instead of increasing the powers of the police with the possible consequence of deterring peaceful protestors. Alternative approaches to this bill have been suggested, which includes improving training for police and allowing the council to take action against protest. This has attracted support from the Liberal Democrat, Green party and Labour opposition, who have described the amendments to this bill as “authoritative” and “against democratic values”.
However, the bill has received support for tackling disruptive protestors, such as Insulate Britain protests, for which the bill was directly amended to cover. The bill has the intention of deterring protestors where it is difficult for the police to remove them in this sense. It would also allow “serious disruptive prevention orders”, which allows authorities to ban specific individuals from demonstrations. In light of this, several parties such as the Labour party have opted not to oppose the measures, but rather, choose to amend its scope that allows fewer restrictions on protesting.