Fundamental rights / Policing / Protest rights

Liberty responds to Parliamentary criticism of Policing Bill

Posted on 22 Jun 2021

Liberty has welcomed a scathing report from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), which found parts of the proposed Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (The Policing Bill) “oppressive and wrong”.

The Policing Bill has been making its way through Parliament against a backdrop of widespread criticism from charities and activists. The damning report from the JCHR is the latest high-profile intervention, following earlier criticism from the committee and condemnation from two UN Special Rapporteurs.

As well as parts which threaten the right to protest, the Bill includes new stop and search powers that are likely to increase the discriminatory over-policing of people of colour, and provisions that risk criminalising the way of life of Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Liberty has been campaigning against the Policing Bill, and repeatedly called on MPs to block this dangerous crackdown on civil liberties.

Rosalind Comyn, Liberty’s Policy and Campaigns Manager, said: “Protest isn’t a gift from the State, it’s our fundamental right. Over recent months a growing chorus of voices – from the public to rights and community groups – has risen up to defend this right. It’s welcome to now see cross party MPs and peers in the JCHR speak out too.

“Under human rights law, States have an obligation to facilitate protest, not suppress it – yet this is what this Bill seeks to achieve. After all but banning protest during the pandemic, the Government is now using this public health crisis as cover to make emergency measures permanent. As well as handing police powers to choose where, when and how people can protest, this bill also threatens to criminalise the entire way of life of nomadic Gypsy and Traveller communities, and would create new stop and search powers that will exacerbate discriminatory over-policing of people of colour.

“Giving police even more powers to control and limit our right to protest is incredibly dangerous. We urge MPs to listen to the warnings about what this Bill would mean for the future of civil liberties in the UK – and to oppose it at every chance they get.”

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