Priti Patel’s Anti-Protest Legislation Is a Breach of Human Rights, Says the JCHR

Demonstrators protesting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 march in central Manchester on May 1, 2021. - Previous "Kill the Bill" demonstrations have turned violent, with protesters demanding the withdrawal of the legislation, which critics say harshly restricts the right to peaceful protest. (Photo by Oli SCARFF …
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s proposed curbs on the right to protest in Britain has been described as “deeply concerning” and would represent a breach of human rights, according to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The Government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Part 3 (Public Order) seeks to empower police in Britain to break up protests for vague reasons such as causing a nuisance, serious annoyance, or for being too noisy.

The bill has been spearheaded by Home Secretary Priti Patel to supposedly clamp down on disruptive, damaging, violent, and costly protests held by left-wing activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter.

However, a report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has warned that the legislation is too vague and too broad, and, therefore, it will likely result in the criminalisation of peaceful protests.

The select committee said that the government should introduce a clause into the legislation that guarantees “express statutory protection for the right to protest, setting out the obligation on public authorities to refrain from interfering unlawfully with the right but also the duty to facilitate protest”.

The report also called on the government to scrap the noise “trigger” from the legislation, as it “strikes at the very heart of why people gather together to protest – to have their voices heard”.

“Demonstrations with the greatest public backing could be disproportionately impacted by this expansion of police powers to move the location of a demonstration, limit its numbers, duration or even silence chants,” the JCHR said.

The chairwoman of the Joint Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said: “One of our most fundamental rights is to protest. It is the essence of our democracy. To do that, we need to make ourselves heard. The Government proposals to allow police to restrict “noisy” protests are oppressive and wrong.

“The Government put forward new powers in area areas where the police already have access to powers and offences which are perfectly adequate. The Government has served up confusion where clarity and precision is essential.

“Noisy protests are the exercises of the lungs of a healthy democracy. They should not be treated as an inconvenience by those in power. We are calling for the right to protest peacefully to be given explicit statutory protection.”

Concerns have also been raised about the legislation being used to impose unequal restrictions on protests of differing ideologies.

Since lockdown restrictions were imposed on the country last year, there has been a noticeable difference in how London’s Metropolitan Police have handled anti-lockdown protests in comparison to leftist demonstrations staged by Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter.

In June 2020, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick admitted that the police force had taken a hands-off approach to BLM protests, due to fears of “serious disorder“.

In contrast, officers arrested 190 anti-lockdown protesters in just one evening in November, for supposedly violating the coronavirus restrictions.

Breitbart News’s James Delingpole remarked in March that “the people most likely to bear the brunt of this new legislation are anti-lockdown protesters.

“Throughout the last year, these are the people whose protests have been put down most brutally and aggressively by the police. So really, this is legislation that ought to terrify freedom lovers at least as much as the authoritarian, Big State lovers of the far left.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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