The new policing bill and protests in England and Wales

The Police Bill in England and Wales is a huge piece of legislation that includes important government proposals on crime and justice. Part it covers changes to the regulations on demonstrations and protests.

Currently, if the police want to impose restrictions on a protest, generally speaking, they have to demonstrate that it could cause serious public disorder, serious property damage, or serious disruption to community life. They can also impose specific measures to control the routes taken by protest marches. When it comes to important events, these details are thrashed out by the organisers weeks in advance.

The prime minister is defending the policing bill amid criticism from MPs. How will the law change these powers? Police chiefs will have more power to impose more conditions on static protests. They will be able to dictate what time they start and finish, establish noise limitations, etc. If protesters refuse to comply with police instructions on conducting their protest, they could face a fine of up to £ 2,500.

The proposed law includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”. The bill is designed to prevent people from occupying public spaces, hanging from bridges, or using other protest tactics to make themselves seen and heard. A final measure introduces a potential ten-year prison sentence for people who criminally damage a memorial. Of note is the fact that the Labour Party is opposed to the proposed measures.

What else does the new legislation propose?

  • Changes to sentencing rules so that criminals spend more time in prison before being released on parole.
  • Allowing judges to consider life imprisonment for juvenile killers.
  • With regard to terrorism, increased powers to monitor criminals more closely after they’re released from prison.
  • Community service for less serious crimes to address underlying issues in the lives of offenders.
  • Changes to the Sexual Offences Act to extend the definition of ‘position of trust’ abuse to include other roles, such as sports coaches or religious figures.

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