CAROLINE ANSELL MP: New Bill does not stop the right to protest

All this week I have been asking local people on my Facebook page to give their views about the government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 2:06 pm

There has been a great deal of constructive feedback and I would like to thank everyone for getting involved and politely exchanging their thoughts and views. This is a big bill covering a great deal of new laws - many of them very popular with the public - including increased jail terms for those who attack emergency workers, tougher sentences, including Whole Life Orders, for premeditated murder of a child and the end of automatic release halfway through sentence of serious violent and sexual offenders.

Kay’s Law, in memory of Kay Richardson who tragically lost her life at her ex-partner’s hands, is also part of the proposed legislation and will (force the police to) impose stricter conditions on bail in high harm cases. More softer aspects include profoundly deaf people will be able to sit on juries – with a British Sign Language interpreter allowed in the jury room.

Opposition parties who did not support this Bill cite proposals to stop disruptive and noisy protests. Protest is a fundamental right in this country and this Bill will not stop it. I would certainly not vote for any legislation that did.

However, the right to protest does not trump all other rights like going to work. People will remember the public upset at some protest groups’ disruptive tactics, used for days, that stopped people from getting to work or the emergency services from attending incidents.

Despite quite a bit of misinformation, this Bill does not stop the right to protest. Peaceful protesting will continue.

So, in principle, I support the aims of the Bill. However, I do have concerns around the practicalities and some definitions within the proposed Bill around annoyance, disruption and noise.

But what those opposed are not saying is that this Bill will now undergo a committee stage where issues like definitions can be scrutinised and refined. The Bill is also subject to amendments in both Houses of Parliament as it makes its passage to becoming law.

I am looking forward to some lively debate and I believe there will be some changes to the Bill in the months to come. It will be the better and stronger for it.

Meantime, please keep sending me your thoughts and look out for an online survey I have published on all that the Bill proposes.

Alongside feedback on proposed legislation to keep us safer this week, it’s been great to receive a whole wave of project proposals for our ‘levelling up’ bid to the government’s fund. The fund is aimed at recovery and growth, improved transport connectivity and regeneration. Ideas range from exploring an off-shore, underwater project to creating a solar street. There is no shortage of vision or potential but my twenty million pound question is, what do you think would have a visible impact in our town?