Amnesty urges MPs to follow Lords in rejecting “deeply authoritarian” policing bill

“The right to protest is fundamental to a free and fair society"

Amnesty International UK has urged MPs to follow the House of Lords in rejecting the  controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as it returns to the House of Commons this week.

The new bill is a piece of legislation that proposes to “reform the justice system”, give “tougher sentencing for worst offenders”, end automatic halfway release from prison for certain crimes and changes that will directly impact people’s right to protest in the UK.

The bill has been criticised by the Labour party and in an open letter from a coalition of UK organisations including Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion who have urged MPs to “Kill The Bill”.

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The bill promises to instigate “more proactive approach in managing highly disruptive protests” and is proposing to “widen the range of conditions that the police can impose on static protests, to match existing police powers to impose conditions on marches”.

This means police could impose start and finish times to protests and set noise limits. It would also broaden the situations where police can instigate these conditions, allowing them to impose these conditions to single person protests, for example.

Ahead of the bill’s return to the Commons, Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO, said that “MPs should reject the deeply-authoritarian provisions of this Bill, which fly in the face of the values and historic liberties of this country.”

Deshmukh added: “The extensive cross-party opposition from the Lords shows the Government got it wrong on this one and MPs should reject the deeply-authoritarian provisions of this Bill, which fly in the face of the values and historic liberties of this country.

“The right to protest is fundamental to a free and fair society. Protest is a cherished part of British history – from the anti-slavery movement, to the suffragettes and recent anti-war marches.

Breonna Taylor grand jury decision protests
Protesters in Washington DC following the grand jury’s Breonna Taylor decision. Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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“The police simply do not need vast new powers to arrest ordinary people exercising their right to protest.

“This bill will also further entrench racism and discrimination in British policing.

“A huge expansion in stop-and-search powers is likely to have hugely disproportionate impacts on Black people, who are already much more likely to be stopped and searched, to be Tasered or even to die in police custody.

“We hope to see MPs standing up for the basic rights and freedoms of their constituents by rejecting this dangerous power grab”.

Last month, the Government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords when peers voted against various measures in the bill.

Tomorrow (February 28), the bill enters the “ping pong” process in the Commons, where MPs reconsider the Lords’ amendments before it then goes back to the Lords for further consideration.

So far, more than 800,000 members of the public have signed a petition demanding a major rethink of the measures.

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