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.”