Advertisement
Activism

New anti-protest law could criminalise someone for tying up a loud dog outside a cafe

Walking down the street arm-in-arm and bumping into someone could also fall under the new law, a human rights group has said

A new anti-protest law making its way through parliament could criminalise somebody for tying their dog up outside a cafe – if that dog starts barking loudly – peers have been warned.

Designed to crack down on protest groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, the government’s Public Order Bill could mean people face arrest for walking down the street arm-in-arm and bumping into someone, and locking up a bicycle where it might impede more than one person walking down the street.

In a briefing sent to members of the House of Lords ahead of the bill’s second reading, cross-party law reform organisation Justice warned that the new offence of “locking on” created by the bill, as well as a proposed beefing-up of stop and search powers, risk creating situations where ordinary people face police action.

Proposed expansions to police powers could see people stopped and searched for items such as belts or sellotape, while public acts of worship, pride marches and pickets could also be classified as protests under the new act.

Tyrone Steele, Criminal Lawyer at Justice, told The Big Issue: “The bill would have a chilling effect on vital freedoms of thought, expression, and assembly, beyond direct supporters of particular protests. Protest Banning Orders could be applied to people with the most tangential connection to a protest, from shopkeepers who sell protesters glue, soup, or cake, to those who post encouraging messages on social media.

“In practice, this could mean severe restrictions on individuals’ liberty, including GPS ankle tagging, prohibitions on internet usage, and even, if breached, incarceration.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

The House of Lords debated the Public Order Bill on Tuesday, after MPs in the House of Commons voted it through last month, with peers also warning that tourists and shoppers could be caught up in the restrictions.

Devised by former home secretary Priti Patel, the bill has been enthusiastically taken up by Suella Braverman. In her first tenure as home secretary, Braverman described the bill’s detractors as “tofu-eating wokerati”.

Noting that police already had powers to arrest protesters blocking roads and defacing works of art, Labour peer Vernon Coaker said: “The Government’s Bill will potentially inadvertently criminalise many from a huge law-abiding majority.”

He added: “This would allow the police to stop and search not only completely peaceful protesters but also anyone in the vicinity of a protest, including unknowing passers-by.

“If Parliament Square were so designated, anyone—people going to work, shoppers, school students, parliamentary staff or tourists—could be stopped without reason. Is that where we want to go? Unacceptable.”

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Lib Dem peer Brian Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said the law is “a culture wars bill that further erodes people’s right to assembly, free speech and peaceful protest.”

Highlighting how ministers showed concern about free speech in universities while restricting the right to protest, Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti said: “The Home Secretary pleads redemption for herself but incarceration for those who plead for the planet, against poverty, and even for free speech itself.

“Hypocrisy is not mere tactical error. When it invades our statutes, it threatens the legitimacy layer: that which protects law-based order in which civilised society endures.”

Responding, Conservative peer Andrew Sharpe, a parliamentary under secretary of state for the Home Office, said: “Protesters can continue to have their voices heard but…they will not be allowed to wreak havoc on the lives of others while doing so.”

Sharpe added that new stop and search powers were necessary to deal with the “fast-paced context” of protests and “would be targeted only at preventing the guerrilla tactics employed by some”.

Read more of The Big Issue’s coverage of the Public Order Bill:

Advertisement

Every copy counts this Winter

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

Recommended for you

Read All
How you can donate to help rescue efforts after the Turkey and Syria earthquakes
Turkey and Syria earthquakes

How you can donate to help rescue efforts after the Turkey and Syria earthquakes

Betting shops are taking over this town. But the locals are fighting back
Gambling

Betting shops are taking over this town. But the locals are fighting back

The government’s anti-protest bill is back. Here’s what you might not know about it
Public Order Bill

The government’s anti-protest bill is back. Here’s what you might not know about it

Inside the trial of the 'Barclays Seven' Extinction Rebellion activists
Long read

Inside the trial of the 'Barclays Seven' Extinction Rebellion activists

Most Popular

Read All
Glen Matlock: 'I wish John Lydon stood by Anarchy In The UK's words'
1.

Glen Matlock: 'I wish John Lydon stood by Anarchy In The UK's words'

Louis CK’s sold-out show at Madison Square Garden proves there’s no such thing as cancel culture
2.

Louis CK’s sold-out show at Madison Square Garden proves there’s no such thing as cancel culture

Beyoncé fans enraged as some tickets cost more than a month's rent
3.

Beyoncé fans enraged as some tickets cost more than a month's rent

Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023
4.

Here's when people will get the next cost of living payment in 2023