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Public do not support Priti Patel’s plans to increase police powers, poll finds

The plans show a government ‘out of step with the public’, human rights group Liberty has warned.

Priti Patel’s plans to increase police powers through her Public Order Bill are not supported by the public, according to a new poll.

A survey carried out by human rights group Liberty has found seven in 10 people want the government to instead focus on the root causes of crime.

The new Public Order Bill will grant police greater stop and search powers, and creates new protest-related criminal offences – including making “locking on” a crime punishable by prison time.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said the findings showed a government out of step with the public.

Andrews said: “It’s clear from these figures that Priti Patel is completely out of step with public opinion when it comes to dealing with problems like serious violence.”

“The new measures announced last week by the Home Secretary will serve only to widen existing divisions and put more people – particularly people of colour and children – at risk of police harassment and abuse of power.”

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The Public Order Bill, introduced in response to protests from groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, and Insulate Britain, would create a handful of new protest-related criminal offences.

“Locking on” will become a specific offence, carrying a maximum prison sentence of six months. Protesters could be jailed for up to a year for “interfering with key national infrastructure” – including printing presses.

After an autumn of Insulate Britain’s protests, the penalty for blocking highways will increase, and police will be able to impose “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders” to ban prolific activists from protests.

The Public Order Bill also expands the use of Section 60 “suspicion-less” stop and search powers, meaning police will be able to put the blanket order in place without informing communities.

Civil rights groups warned this would lead to “more criminalisation of Black people”.

Liberty’s polling found 73 per cent of respondents said police should not use tools and tactics which discriminate against people of colour.

Habib Kadri, research and policy manager at StopWatch, said: “When government policy is at odds with public sentiment, it ought to be supported by the evidence.

“However, the home secretary’s decisions over Section 60 stops and use of force tactics appear to be devoid of substance.

“They can only make sense when you understand that it is a top priority of this government to criminalise the most marginalised and impoverished communities in this country all in the name of restoring ‘law and order’.”

The public has been invited to have its say on the Public Order Bill by submitting written evidence. Here’s how you can do so.

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