The Bill includes changes such as allowing judges to consider jailing child murderers for their entire lives, but also increases police powers and will impose new restrictions on public protests.
Limits at public protests
Although the right to protest is enshrined in the Human Rights Act, the new Bill will mean the police can set noise limits and start and end times. These rules even apply to demonstrations by just one person.
They will also be permitted to fine protesters up to £2,500 each if they refuse to follow police directions during a protest.
Longer sentence for harming statues than people
There has been much criticism about the Bill in the run-up to the vote, which includes a ten-year prison sentence for damage to memorials.
This length of sentence has angered people, who compare it to common assault on a person only carrying a six months sentence and even grievous bodily harm being only five years.
All Conservatives voted in favour
A total of 358 MPs (all Conservative) voted in favour of the Bill, whilst 263 opposition MPs voted against it.
No voted was recorded by any of the eight DUP MPs, but Gavin Robinson MP (DUP – Belfast East) said in the Commons,
“The loose and lazy way this legislation is drafted would make a dictator blush.
“Protests will be noisy, protests will disrupt and no matter how offensive we may find the issue at their heart, the right to protest should be protected.”
The BBC has listed parts of the legislation that will be more widely acceptable to the public:
- Changing sentencing rules so that serious criminals spend more time in jail before they can be conditionally released
- Judges will be allowed to consider jailing child murderers for their entire lives
- Maximum sentences for low-level assaults against emergency service workers doubled to two years
- On terrorism, the bill creates powers to more closely monitor offenders released from prison
- Community sentences for less serious crime to address underlying problems in offenders’ lives
Seely: Abuse on social media not representative of public feeling
News OnTheWight has asked Bob Seely for his response to the criticism he received on social media.
The MP has been a keen supporter of protesters in Hong Kong, as his Twitter feed demonstrates.
Bob Seely MP told News OnTheWight,
“Firstly, I do not believe that abuse on social media is representative of public feeling.
“Secondly, with regard to public protests, there needs to be a balance between the right to peaceful protest and the rights for people to go about their daily business. The proposals in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will strengthen Police powers to tackle protests that have a significant disruptive effect. The Government has a duty to keep people safe. The right to protest and the right to bring society to a halt are not the same thing.
“Thirdly, on the desecration of war memorials, these memorials have immense historical significance as part of our national heritage, and their desecration does a disservice to Armed Forces personnel who lost their lives in the defence of this country. While incidences of damage to memorials are usually of low monetary value, they very often carry a high sentimental and emotional impact. I welcome the fact that this Bill will toughen the law where criminal damage is caused to a memorial, by removing the consideration of monetary value.
“On sentencing, it is right that the most serious and violent offenders, including those who have committed violent and sexual offences should spend more time in prison to match the severity of their crimes. The Government has been clear that it will strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system, and I will support legislation designed to achieve this.
“Lastly, for those who fail to understand the difference between the right to protest in Britain and the lack of civil liberties of those protesting in an authoritarian state, I am not quite sure where to start. Perhaps an understanding of the fundamental difference between free states like Britain and police states would be a good start. The right to protest is not the right to trash, destroy or bring to a halt.”
To find out more about the Bill, Dominic Casciani from the BBC has put together a guide to the Bill and how it will change future protests.
5pm 29th Mar 2021 – Response from MP added