The above bill, currently going through Parliament will place some very unnecessary restrictions on public protest. I would urge everyone who cares about democracy to write to your MP to raise your concerns. I would recommend everyone read what these changes are. Here is a summary from a Government factsheet. My comments are in Red Italics.
We are introducing the offence in statute, and abolishing the common law offence, in line with the recommendations of the independent Law Commission. In doing so, we are narrowing the scope of the offence and lowering the maximum penalty from unlimited crown court penalties, to 10 years’ imprisonment. Barneteye comment - Ten years is more than a local paedophile was sentenced to after conviction for assaulting a 7 year old girl. It is completely draconian in its nature. There has been no case made to justify such harsh penalties for causing a bit of nuisance. If people are involved in activities that place life in danger or incite others to do so, there are already laws to deal with this.
The highly disruptive tactics used by some protesters cause a disproportionate impact on the surrounding communities and are a drain on public funds. For example, during Extinction Rebellion’s protests of April and October 2019, some of London’s busiest areas were brought to a standstill for several days with the policing operation for the two extended protests costing £37m - more than twice the annual budget of London’s violent crime taskforce. Barneteye comment - The only justification is that it is expensive to police protests. It is telling that Extinction Rebellion are specifically named. I do wonder if there has been a cost put on the damage caused by climate change?
The new statutory offence of public nuisance will cover the same conduct as the existing common law offence of public nuisance. The offence captures conduct which causes serious harm to, endangers the life, health, property or comfort of the public, or obstructs the public in the exercise or enjoyment of rights common to the public. An act or omission is considered to cause serious harm if as a result, a person suffers serious distress, serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity. Conduct captured here will include nuisances such as producing excessive noise or smells, or offensive or dangerous behaviour in public, such as hanging from bridges. For instance, previous convictions have been for throwing oneself into a river, or for threatening to jump from motorway bridges. Each of these caused unnecessary burden on, and distraction for, emergency services, in particular the use of police resources that could not be used elsewhere in the community. This denied an amenity to a cross section of the public. Barneteye Comment - So you can get ten years for causing 'serious annoyance'? Ten years for producing 'excessive noises and smells'? My house backs onto the M1 Motorway and the Thameslink Railway. I was kept up all night last Saturday by work on the Railway. But that is OK. Having a noisy protest, to ask the government not to destroy the environment isn't. Make no mistake, this legislation is not a benign act of tidying up a raft of outdated laws. It is a concerted attack on freedom by a very authoritarian adminstration that believes the public should not hold it to account.