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Pleas to Welsh Secretary to vote against Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

People clash with police as they gather in Clapham Common, London, after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard was officially cancelled. (Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

THE SECRETARY of State for Wales, Simon Hart has been urged by The Liberal Democrats and Labour in Wales to vote against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “which will significantly increase police and state powers to stop protests.

The legislation will boost police powers for tackling “so-called static protests” such as the Extinction Rebellion protests that brought London to a standstill, by “imposing start and finish times” and “maximum noise limits”, the site continues.

Alistair Cameron, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire has written to Simon Hart MP to urge him to vote against the Police,

Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. In a letter to the Welsh Secretary, Mr Cameron wrote: “The appalling scenes on Saturday evening in Clapham Common were totally unacceptable and extremely concerning in our democracy where we have the right to protest and free speech. I note that the Home Secretary has announced that there will be an independent investigation which needs to be concluded as quickly as possible. This needs to cover how this was allowed to build up before Saturday as well as what happened on the day.  

“The vigil was a peaceful one brought about by the most tragic of circumstances. The right to peaceful protest is fundamental to our democracy. That is why I am so concerned by the Government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which would further limit our right to peaceful protest.

“For example, to make noise level a reason for which the Police can shut down a peaceful process effectively gives the Police authority to wipe out any peaceful protests in any built-up areas, such as near the Houses of Parliament or Welsh Senedd.

“I hope you will agree that curtailing an individual’s right to free speech and peaceful protest in this way is totally unacceptable.  I therefore urge you to vote against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill at its second reading this week.”

The call from the Liberal Democrats in Wales was echoed by Labour. Jackie Jones, Senedd Candidate Preseli Pembrokeshire, commented on the situation which unfolded last night on Clapham Common by stating, “I have been a legal academic and activist against violence against women for twenty years. In all that time there has been lots of evidence-based research, reviews and action plans. None have ended the violence. The impunity continues and is exacerbated by the lack of prosecutions and convictions.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to curtail the right to peaceful protest. It is one of the most draconian pieces of law I’ve ever seen. If passed, vigils (like the ones at Clapham Common and across the country) and peaceful demonstrations can be stopped if they are ‘noisy’ or ‘perceived to be so’, with up to 10 years in prison.

“This Bill is a real attack on our way of life. It should never pass into law.”

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What is in the bill?

MPs are today debating the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “which will significantly increase police powers to stop protests.

As well as cracking down on protests, the 307-page bill also includes reforms to “make it easier convict protesters for ignoring conditions placed on a protest” and to prevent demonstrations from being held “around Parliament”, as well as “reinstating the offence of creating a public nuisance into common law”.

More than 150 rights organisations have co-signed a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland warning that the legislation would be “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens”. 

The government must “fundamentally rethink its approach”, says the letter, which has been seen by The Guardian and signed by groups including Liberty, Big Brother Watch, Unite, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Unlock Democracy and Extinction Rebellion,

Labour Leader Keir Starmer yesterday instructed his MPs to vote against the policing bill, in what is being described in some quarters as a “significant intervention”. Pundits predict that any Tory rebellion in the Commons vote will not be large enough to inflict defeat on the government, however