Kill the Bill protests have been taking place all across the country for months now, but what are they actually protesting?
The Canterbury Hub’s Darius Winship has explored what the protests are about, why they’re needed and why they are so controversial.
What are they actually about?
The protests are opposing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is a piece of legislation introduced earlier in the year.
The law gives the police greater powers to restrict protests, as well as some changes to sentencing.
What does the law currently say about protests?
Protests are currently covered by the Public Order Act 1986. Although the wording of this focuses more on riots.
This requires police to prove that a demonstration would cause serious public disorder, damage to property, or disruption to the community, in order for them to intervene.
It also requires the police to inform anyone being charged while attending a protest of what they’ve done.
Today we introduce the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill into Parliament.
🚨 Equip police with tools to stop violent criminals in their tracks.
🔒 Put thugs who assault officers behind bars for longer.
👨👩👧👦 Strengthen the support that officers & their families receive. pic.twitter.com/3fM6l5cO1k
— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) March 9, 2021
What does it actually change?
If passed the new bill would give police the power to set a start and end time on demonstrations, enforce noise limits and charge protestors for breaking restrictions even if they were not aware of them.
One especially controversial element is that any of these can be enforced on demonstrations of only one person.
Breaching any of these conditions would be punishable with a £2,500 fine.
Changes to sentencing include greater surveillance, or anyone convicted for terrorism and community sentences for less serious crimes.
Damaging a memorial will also be sentenced with consideration to sentimental value, instead of just its cost.
Why is it needed?
The Government claims that some recent demonstrations have caused too much disruption.
Extinction Rebellion demos in 2019 saw key areas of London grind to a halt and have been cited in particular.
Policing these events is also expensive with that money ultimately coming from the taxpayer.
Although since the Government’s own impact assessment costs these measures at £100 – £146 million a year, that may not be a point they want to draw too much attention to.
Why is it so controversial?
Critics of the bill believe it grants the police too much power.
Police could decide for themselves if a protest was unreasonably loud or if it broke some other criteria and then step in.
It could be taken to court after, but until a verdict the police would have effectively shut down demonstrations unilaterally.