The Economist’ wrote on 20th March 2021, “The Government should bin its illiberal attempt to restrict protest.”
“The Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill … would sit comfortably in Russian or Chinese statute books.”
The maximum sentence for defacing “a memorial” is increased from 3 months to 10 years. This appears to have been a reaction to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations where protests against the uncritical commemoration of personalities closely linked to the Slave Trade involved damage to statues.
There are now further restrictions to assembly in public and public processions. Protests by single-persons are now subject to restrictions.
A person commits an offence if, among other things, they do an act that creates ” of serious harm” to the public or a section of the public, and that “serious harm” can include “serious annoyance or serious inconvenience”.
This is a very variable and subjective criterion, to say the least.
We should be noted that making a noise or displaying a banner considered to be political could amount to ” serious annoyance or serious inconvenience”.
It will be considered as “intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance” if protesting persons are warned by a police that they should desist but continue with the demonstration, and on conviction on indictment you will be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, to a fine or to both. But if you’re in luck and end up in a magistrates court, it then could be 12 months or less!
The ‘Economist’ continued,
“Freedom of expression, including freedom of assembly, is central to a liberal democracy, and decent societies have to put up with a few inconveniences to guarantee it. That’s not just because expression bolsters individual liberty, but also because governments sometimes need to hear what protesters say.”
“Extinction Rebellion has made the world take climate change more seriously. Black Lives Matter has made white people think harder about racism.”
This “rotten bill” (to quote ‘The Economist’ again) became law on 22nd April 2022.