New protest restrictions breach human rights, say MPs and peers

2014 Rally & Processionprovided by: Netpol
published: April/May 2021

legislative scrutiny report on the public order section of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, published today by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), a parliamentary committee made up MPs and peers, says proposed restrictions on protests are “inconsistent with our human rights and… deeply concerning.”

In a press statement for the launch of the report, the Chair of the Joint Committee, Harriet Harman MP, described proposals to allow police to restrict noisy protests as “oppressive and wrong” and that the government had “served up confusion where clarity and precision is essential”. The JCHR has proposed amendments to the Bill.

Creating uncertainty

The report, which follows evidence sessions that organisations including Netpol gave oral evidence to, raises serious concerns about the government’s proposed legislation. It says a new noise ‘trigger’ for imposing conditions on protests “is neither necessary nor proportionate” because “making noise and being heard are fundamental to protest” and should “only be limited in extreme circumstances”.

The JCHR says using vaguely defined terms like “serious unease” as reasons to impose restrictions creates uncertainty for those organising and participating in protests and that leaving “an excessive degree of judgment in the hands of a police officer… fails to provide convincing safeguards against arbitrary or discriminatory use of these powers.

It adds that a regulation giving the Home Secretary the power to clarify the meaning of such terms is “unacceptable”.

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