From the i paper:
QuoteAt the time, the so-called libertarians on the Tory benches voted with the Government. Figures like Philip Davies, David Davies and Steve Baker, who had spent the preceding months warning of the tyranny of anti-Covid measures, were suddenly silent when it came to an assault on protest. Instead, they waved away concerns, saying that the more alarming aspects of the bill could be addressed later in committee stage – the part of a bill's life when it is supposed to be combed over by parliamentarians.
In fact, the opposite has happened. Instead of toning the bill down, the Home Secretary has made it vastly more dangerous, adding several aggressive new provisions. And now, as it goes through committee stage in the Lords, these new powers are being heaped on it, turning it into the single greatest legislative threat to British liberties in our lifetime.
The first mechanism is stop and search. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, police can use this power if they have "reasonable grounds for suspecting" someone is carrying certain items or something which could be used to violate certain laws, like burglary or theft. Patel is massively expanding the kinds of laws which might be included.
Now police can deploy stop and search to avoid "serious disruption" or a "public nuisance". They can be initiated "whether or not the constable has any grounds for suspecting that the person... is carrying a prohibited object". It's carte blanche for invasive police action against activists.
Those who refuse to give themselves up to this intrusion face the full force of the law. Anyone found guilty of obstructing a stop and search during a protest faces a jail term "not exceeding 51 weeks". In other words, they risk imprisonment for nearly a year.
Patel then appears to take direct aim at the Insulate Britain protests. Amendment 319C criminalises "wilful obstruction of a highway". Amendment 319D criminalises the obstruction of "major transport works", including roads, rail lines or airport runways. Amendment 319A creates an offence of "locking on", or carrying equipment which might facilitate it. It targets anyone who attaches themselves to "a person, to an object or to land". These all come with a potential 51 week prison sentence. In fact, this penalty is plastered all over the legislation.
Insulate Britain protestors supergluing themselves to a road are the clear target, but the powers go far beyond them. There is no definition of the term "attach", so it could equally be applied to protestors who link arms during a sit-down protest, or even hold hands. It could apply to someone found with superglue while walking past a protest, or to the disabled activists who chained their wheelchairs to traffic lights over benefits cuts.
This is an assault on the core techniques of British protest throughout history: chaining yourself to public property and blocking roads. It's what the Suffragettes did. It's what anti-war demonstrators do. Only last month, activists managed to stop a deportation flight after blocking the road in front of a detention centre. Now all these tactics will be illegal...
The government are keen to make sure this undemocratic bill worthy of a dicatorship goes through:
Govt excluding debate on new anti protest laws. Introduced 18 pages of new law, after Commons stages and second reading in Lords complete. Whole Lords committee stage debate on new clauses crammed into one late night. Commons excluded, Lords marginalised, Parl neutralised.
And of course most of the media ignore the passage of this bill because it suits the billionaires who own the press.
Any potential sentence over 12 months has to go to jury trial. By restricting to 51 weeks, they've kept it in the magistrates court. A much quicker, cheaper way to bin 'em without having to solicit the opinions of dangerous proles.
We should protes...oh, hang on...
EDIT: Can't get used to the button placement.