Template source: Liberty
This is worded as a letter to your own MP. The first 3 paragraphs will need changing if you are writing to a peer or another MP.
Members of Parliament will soon be voting again on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
As your constituent, I’m writing to highlight the Bill’s dangerous provisions which will shut down protests, criminalise Gypsies’ and Travellers’ way of life, worsen discriminatory policing, and destroy trust in vital public services.
I urge you to please raise these issues with colleagues on the frontbench and work to have them removed from the Bill.
Protest is a fundamental right, and everyone should be able to stand up for a cause they believe in. But Part 3 of the Policing Bill will give police more powers to place conditions on protests that cause “serious disruption”. This term isn’t defined in the Bill. Instead, the Home Secretary will be able to define and re-define it as they see fit, granting them the power to block any protest they don’t like.
Protesters will also face up to 10 years in prison if they cause “serious annoyance” or “serious inconvenience” – which are also undefined. How we protest matters. Protests can be disruptive, inconvenient and annoying. They are about challenging injustice and getting your voice heard.
Ministers might claim this part of the Bill exists to tackle a specific problem, but it is in fact an attack on everyone’s rights, from climate activists to grieving families searching for answers and justice.
And at the eleventh hour, the Government have tabled even more new amendments that will criminalise protestors and shut down protests further.
Protest is pivotal to a functioning democracy. These proposals must not become law.
GYPSY AND TRAVELLER RIGHTS
Last year the courts recognised Gypsy and Traveller people’s “enshrined freedom not to stay in one place but to move from one place to another”. But Part 4 of the Policing Bill is a direct threat to this.
The Bill creates a new offence of residing on land with a vehicle without consent if it causes or is likely to cause “significant disruption, damage or distress”.
“Significant disruption, damage or distress” isn’t defined in the Bill. Nor does a person have to have even done it – it just needs to be considered “likely”. And a person doesn’t actually have to reside on the land to cause an offence. The offence can be committed if a person “intends” to reside on the land – or someone thinks the person intends to.
So whether people fall foul of the offence will no doubt often be informed in practice by racist views of Gypsies and Travellers.
The offence can be punished by fines up to £2,500, three months in prison and vehicle seizure – which could see children put into care and families left homeless.
The Government’s public consultation showed that the majority of people are against these proposals. And so are the police, who believe there should be more stopping places for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers.
Part 4 of the Policing Bill is an attack on Gypsies’ and Travellers’ way of life. We can work to build a fairer, more equal society instead. These proposals must not become law.
DISCRIMINATORY STOP AND SEARCH
Part 10 of the Bill will allow courts to impose serious violence reduction orders (SVROs) on people convicted of weapons offences – and then allows police to stop and search them whenever they are in public, whether officers suspect they are carrying a weapon or not.
Black people are already 14 times more likely to face ‘suspicion-less’ stop and search than white people. Expanding stop and search powers will only make discriminatory policing worse.
And a person doesn’t have to have previously used a weapon to be placed under an SVRO. For instance, thousands of people have been convicted of weapons offences under hugely problematic ‘joint enterprise’ laws even though they themselves didn’t handle a weapon – and up to half are people of colour.
In its equalities impact assessment, the Government has acknowledged that these proposals will disproportionately affect people of colour. These proposals must not become law.
DESTROYING TRUST IN PUBLIC SERVICES
Part 2 places a duty on a wide range of agencies, including education and healthcare providers, to “prevent and reduce serious violence”. In practice it will force them to hand people’s private information to the police – which could breach data rights, further entrench racially disproportionate policing, and destroy relationships based on trust.
The Bill makes clear police can force agencies to hand over information, and states that sharing data won’t breach duties of confidentiality or other restrictions – which could be anything from doctor-patient confidentiality to contractual agreements.
The Bill will force teachers, health workers and many other people in positions of trust to participate in the criminalisation of the people they work with and care for. This will inevitably lead to people avoiding vital services with disastrous effect. These proposals must not become law.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email.
You may be aware that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is going through its report stage in the House of Lords at present. You may also know that this bill contains provisions limiting Civil Liberties, in particular the right to protest peacefully. Once it has been enacted, it would be very difficult for these ancient rights to be restored. It is not too late to modify it, the House of Lords can still decide to pass amendments to the Bill. If this happens it goes back to the Commons. If not, it becomes law.
Many people reading this will have taken part in the massive People’s Vote marches between the referendum and the departure from the EU. The numbers present were up to 1 million people. These were powerful demonstrations of public anger and distress. Others may remember equal numbers protesting against the invasion of Iraq 18 years ago. Under the government’s plans such protests would become a thing of the past. The Bill would give police more powers to decide which protests can go ahead, where and for how long; it would create a buffer zone around Parliament, and make causing ‘serious annoyance’ punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The government of the day would have the right to declare any protest illegal, a right which is unlikely to be used impartially.
On top of this, the government has added further amendments which will give it powers arbitrarily to ban individuals from taking part in any protests of whatever kind on pain of imprisonment, and which will greatly increase the police’s powers to stop and search without a stated justification – allowing them to act against minority groups who will be left with little or no redress. There are many other provisions of an equally draconian nature, including some which will put an end to the traditional lifestyle of Gypsy and Traveller communities.
No surprise, then, that the Bill has drawn down condemnation from all sides. Critics include Liberty, Best For Britain, Unlock Democracy, the European Movement, Theresa May, many police chiefs, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, even Richard Tice of the Reform Party – and there are few issues on which those all agree.
You can read the Bill here.
The government will claim that this bill is required and that those opposing it are defending the rights of violent criminals. This is of course a travesty of the truth. The Bill is a mixture of uncontoversial modifications of the law and provisions which redolent of Belarus or North Korea.
Most of the offending clauses are in Part 3 of the bill, covering Public Order. These are due for debate in the Lords on Monday 17th January.
If you share our abhorrence at this new attempt to restrict our civil liberties, please help us by writing to as many members of the House of Lords as possible in the next few days urging them to support amendments of this part. You see below a list of those peers who are thought most likely to respond to such representations. You might wish to pick one or two and share your concerns with them.
Template letters are available, and here s a link to the letter recommended by Liberty, from which you may wish to send extracts, but it is best if people feel you are writing personally.
After the Bill returns to the Commons, MPs will have the opportunity to consider Lords amendments, and we would urge you to ask your MP to support any which make the Bill less toxic.
You can also help by signing one of the many petitions on this theme, for example this one from Unlock Democracy, this one from Best For Britain, this one from SumOfUs, and this one from Liberty
Thank you for your support
Liberty has further information about the Bill and its latest modifications.
LORDS CONTACT LIST
|Conservative||Baroness Stowell of Beestonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Conservative||Baroness Williams of Traffordemail@example.com|
|Conservative||Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbottsfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Conservative||Lord Wolfson of Tredegaremail@example.com|
|Crossbench||Lord Alton of Liverpoolfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Crossbench||Lord Carey of Cliftonemail@example.com|
|Crossbench||Lord Carlile of Berriewfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Crossbench||Lord Hannay of Chiswickemail@example.com|
|Crossbench||Lord Hope of Craigheadfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Crossbench||Lord Thomas of Cwmgieddemail@example.com|
|Crossbench||The Earl of Sandwichfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Green Party||Baroness Bennett of Manor Castleemail@example.com|
|Green Party||Baroness Jones of Moulsecoombfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Labour||Baroness Massey of Darwenemail@example.com|
|Labour||Baroness Kennedy of The Shawsfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Labour||Baroness Lister of Burtersettemail@example.com|
|Labour||Baroness Armstrong of Hill Topfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandevilleemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Burt of Solihullfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Hamweeemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Beithfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Dholakiaemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Topefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Smith of Newnhamemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Stunellfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Germanemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Harris of Richmondfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Featherstoneemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord McNallyemail@example.com|
|Liberal Democrat||Lord Tavernefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Non-affliated||Lord Patel of Bradfordemail@example.com|
|Non-affliated||Lord Taylor of Warwickfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Non-affliated||Baroness Kennedy of Cradleyemail@example.com|
European Movement petition: Let’s move on from Frost: click here to sign.