Police and Crime Bill pushed by UK Government, despite controversy

The controversial bill has received widespread criticism from the opposition, demonstrators and even ex-Prime Minister Theresa May. It has raised concerns over how peaceful protests can be conducted.

Background

This bill comes after the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted across the UK in June alongside Extinction Rebellion protests in April. It gives the Home Secretary evaluative powers over protests, which in turn gives Metropolitan Police powers to disperse protests.

The Home Office defends this bill on the terms that these powers are necessary both to drive down COVID infections and to avoid disruption.

Current Controversy

On Saturday (13th March), many assembled at Clapham Common to mourn Sarah Everard, who was abducted and murdered by a police officer. This vigil turned sour after police began forcefully dispersing the crowd.

Police officers began manhandling and cuffing women, with many of the scenes caught on tape.

Mourners detained by police at Clapham Common on Saturday | Source: CBC News

This sparked many responses, from the opposition demanding amendments be made to the Crime Bill, to protestors marching across London.

This Bill also increases the jail time for the destruction of statues from 3 months to 10 years depending on their monetary and sentimental value. In contrast, little is mentioned about rape in the bill, and the average time served is 5 years.

Moving Forward

Many Labour MPs have signed an amendment to the bill that scraps the emergency protest powers and introduces penalties for misogyny.

It is currently only on its second reading in the House of Commons, meaning that it must yet pass the Lords; in which serious amendments could be proposed.

This could lead to Parliamentary ping-pong, in which the bill relays between the two chambers for a year.

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