Delayed Policing Bill Still Poses a Threat
Categories: Latest News
Friday April 09 2021
Whilst the controversial Policing, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill was recently delayed by the UK Government following widespread backlash, it continues to cause concern. The newly unveiled Bill presented numerous alarmingly harmful reforms to the Criminal Justice System, which, if passed, carries the power to curtail free expression, stifle dissent, and criminalise marginalised groups through increased profiling and excessive policing. Although it has been delayed, for the time being, the Bill nevertheless poses a significant threat to basic Human Rights and our society.
Perhaps the most profound impact the Bill is that it would threaten people’s rights to protest. Worryingly, the Police would have the power to deploy a host of draconian measures. Consequently, Police would be able to impose conditions, regulate conduct and decide how and where individuals can protest and have their voices heard. Moreover, failure to obey restrictions would give the Police increased power to give out fines of up to £2,500 to protestors, regardless of whether they were aware of rules and limits. Such restrictions would unequivocally oppose the fundamental right to protest and express oneself, as is enshrined in the Human Rights Act. Consequently, Emmanuelle Andrews, Policy and Campaigns Officer at the human rights organisation Liberty, voiced his concerns, quoted by The Guardian as saying: “These plans are a staggering assault on our right to protest as well as an attack on other fundamental rights… Police already have extensive powers to restrict protests, and frequently go beyond them even though it is their duty to facilitate the exercise of this right”.
The Bill would potentially silence the voices of the most marginalised in society who call for social justice. One movement that would be overwhelmingly targeted is Black Lives Matter (BLM). The BLM movement, which mainly consists of young people, brought to light pressing issues of racism and discrimination last year by calling for social justice and reform in the face of rising institutional racism and the over-policing of minority communities. However, the new proposed Bill would work to silence the voices of those protesting against racism and, as a result, would actively reinforce the over-policing of minority and particularly Black communities.
On the other hand, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities would be disproportionately affected by the Bill. The introduction of the trespassing offence would overwhelmingly impact the lifestyle of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. At the same time, the Government would fail to provide adequate and permitted stopping places for these communities, as well as those affected by homelessness. Such a Bill could be unquestionably deemed prejudicial towards nomadic people as it would essentially criminalise their way of life. Moreover, with homelessness on the rise amidst the pandemic, those unfortunately affected would potentially be targeted for simply resting or spending a night in an area deemed restricted by the Bill.
Ultimately, despite being delayed, this Bill still poses a significant threat and represents an alarming assault on some of the most fundamental rights for citizens in a democracy. The power of activism and opposition has served to halt the Bill from passing for the time being; however, efforts of opposing the Bill need to be maintained thorough campaigns to ensure that people, particularly the most marginalised in society, do not get overwhelmingly affected by a potential draconian measure in the long run. MEND stands in firm solidarity with all those opposing the Bill and those – particularly the most marginalised – who would be overwhelmingly affected by such measures. Consequently, MEND urges the Government to reconsider potentially introducing the Bill in the future in the face of such opposition.