Human Rights Act, ECHR and Government accountability / Policing / Protest rights

Policing Bill amendments are a dangerous power-grab

Posted on 16 Nov 2021

Liberty has responded to a raft of amendments to the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which create new powers aimed to shut down protest and stifle dissent.

Liberty’s Policy and Campaigns Officer Emmanuelle Andrews, said: “No matter who we are, we all want to know we can safely stand up for what we believe in. But on the day demonstrators appear in court, the Government has put forward a raft of new and oppressive powers to stifle dissenting voices further. These additions to the Policing Bill must be seen for what they are: a power grab.

“Protest is not a gift from the State – it’s a fundamental right. The Policing Bill is an attack on the rights of everyone who has a cause they believe in, from climate activists to grieving families looking for answers and justice. It gives the police more powers including expanded stop and search and draconian new “Prevention Orders” that will severely restrict people’s ability to protest. It will increase discrimination and the danger of police interactions – particularly for Black men and minoritised communities for whom the need to protest and resist overbearing police powers is urgent.

“Protest is a core pillar of any healthy democracy. These new powers are a threat to our rights, and an opportunistic move from a Government determined to shut down dissent, stifle democratic scrutiny and make itself untouchable.”

Liberty has been campaigning against the Policing Bill, which also creates new stop and search powers and a “Serious Violence duty” that health and social care professionals say would breach their professional duty of confidentiality and put young people at risk. It also includes provisions that could criminalise the way of life of Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The Policing Bill has caused widespread outrage and a growing groundswell of objection to the Government’s dangerous proposals, including:

  • Over 600,000 people signed a petition against the Bill coordinated between human rights groups, environmentalists, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller advocates and other charities.
  • Over 350 charities signed a letter calling for the Bill to be scrapped.
  • Over 700 academics called for the Bill to be dropped.
  • Three UN Special Rapporteurs warned the Bill threatens our rights.
  • Polling found nearly two thirds of the public are concerned about the protest crackdown.
  • Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said its proposals are “oppressive and wrong”.

Liberty has also warned that the Bill is one part of a larger campaign by the Government to remove itself from accountability and undermine everyone’s ability to stand up to power.

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