CROYDON COMMENTARY: Boris Johnson’s government is about to change the law to clamp down on peaceful protesting, handing powers to the police that are more Draconian than those used by the Chinese to shut down democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, says DAVID GORDON
Not many people are talking about the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
But if it passes Parliament, it will have an impact on all our lives.
The Bill is wide-ranging across policing, prosecution and jail terms. It gives unprecedented powers to the police and to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to ban peaceful demonstrations outright and to ban “noisy” protests. The definition of a noisy protest includes a protest involving noise made by just one person.
“This will be the biggest widening of police powers to impose restrictions on public protest that we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” said Chris Daw QC, a leading barrister and author.
“The Bill hands over the power of deciding whether a protest is justified or should be allowed — decisions we as citizens have had for generations — directly to the Home Secretary. That’s an extremely chilling development.
“It’s completely contradictory to everything the liberty of the free citizen is about in Britain.”
It’s been revealed that the Police Federation was not consulted on this huge extension of police powers. A group of respected former police officers has expressed grave concerns.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, they said, “Echoing the concerns voiced by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and other professional bodies, we believe that this Bill has dangerous and harmful implications for the ability of police officers to enforce the law and for the health of our democracy as a whole.”
If the next time a group of residents, or even a single resident, wants to protest against a housing development or a council decision, the police could just say “No”.
You might expect this from the Chinese government in Hong Kong, but we shouldn’t put up with it in the UK.
If any Inside Croydon readers are worried at the prospect of their right to protest being curtailed, I would encourage them to write to their MP and ask them to oppose this repressive legislation.
- David Gordon works for Unlock Democracy, an organisation that is campaigning against the Bill
- For more information on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, visit the Liberty website here
- If you live in Croydon North, you can contact your MP, Steve Reed OBE, by email firstname.lastname@example.org; or telephone: 020 8665 1214; or post: 908 London Road, Thornton Heath CR7 7PE
- In Croydon Central, your MP is Sarah Jones: email@example.com; phone: 0208 191 7066; post: 43 Blackhorse Lane, Croydon CR0 6NL
- In Croydon South, Chris Philp MP is a minister in Priti Patel’s Home Office. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or phone 020 7219 8026. Philp formally gives only the House of Commons (House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA) as a contact address, and no constituency office, although you might reach him through the Croydon Tories’ office at 36 Brighton Rd, Purley CR8 2LG, tel: 020 8660 0491
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