politics

Labour to vote against Priti Patel's anti-protest crackdown plan


Labour will oppose Priti Patel’s plan to hand more powers to police to crack down on protests.

The Party had previously planned to abstain on the bill, but Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said Labour MPs would be told to oppose the “poorly thought-out measures.”

It follows widespread fury at the Metropolitan Police’s approach to policing a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard last night, which critics say was heavy handed.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, due to be debated in the Commons tomorrow, would give powers to the police to impose conditions on protests which are “noisy” enough to cause “intimidation or serious unease” – or which have an “impact” on the local community.

Critics say the law gives police the power to stop solo protests.

It would also expand the “controlled area” around Parliament where some protest activities are banned.

And it would make it an offence to “intentionally or recklessly” commit an act which could cause “serious annoyance” – punishable by up to 10 years in prison.



Priti Patel will ask MPs to vote on the bill this week

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins denied the bill was intended to suppress protests the government didn’t like.

Mr Lammy said: “The tragic death of Sarah Everard has instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women.

“This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest.

“Now is the time to unite the country and put in place on long overdue protections for women against unacceptable violence, including action against domestic homicides, rape and street harassment. And we must tackle the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse women face.

“Instead, the Conservatives have brought forward a Bill that is seeking to divide the country. It is a mess, which could lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.

“Labour will be voting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on this basis. We are calling on the Government to drop its poorly thought-out proposals and instead work with Labour to legislate to tackle violence against women which is forcing so many across the country to live in fear. As well as to deliver the important areas that are long promised, like tougher sentences for attacks on frontline workers and increased sentences for terrorists.”

She said: “Most certainly not, we support and recognise the right to protest.

“We have a proud history in this country of protesting. If one looks at some of the protest that unions organised, for example, they can be very, very powerful events.

“But they don’t inhibit the day to day lives of people that some of the protests we’ve seen in recent years have done.

“And it’s about trying to get that balance between the right to protest and allowing members of the public to get on their bus to go to work.”

She added: “I think we would all accept that the most disruptive protests, and as I say, a very, very different scenario from the things we were seeing yesterday, but those very, very disruptive protests are very different to what was anticipated by Parliament in 1986.”

Labour’s Jess Phillips today called for sentences for rape and stalking to be increased ahead of the debate on the Police Bill tomorrow.

She told The Andrew Marr Show: “I think you should get more for rape than you do for defacing a statue… You currently can get more for fly-tipping than you can get for stalking. So I think in the case of stalking, I think that it needs to be doubled.”

After calling for the minimum rape sentence to be increased from five to seven years, Ms Phillips also said misogyny should be treated as a hate crime and was asked about the suggestion the public is more interested in burglary and other crimes.

She said: “Where I live the public is genuinely more interested in bins than they are in domestic abuse so if people in positions of power think that we should only ever follow exactly what every single household has their main priority in – the reality is hidden crimes like domestic violence and misogyny, it takes leadership.”

She continued: “The reason misogyny should be a hate crime is that there was a man who stood for election in this country and one of the things that he said whilst on political platforms was about whether he would or wouldn’t rape me.

“If he had insulted me as a disabled person, if he’d insulted me on the basis of my religion, I would be able to take action against that man. Instead, I had to sit through weeks and weeks of people talking about whether I should or shouldn’t be raped.”





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