Closed petition Do not pass the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

This proposed legislation seeks to permanently limit civil liberties. It will severely restrain the right of the public to protest while expanding police powers to take action against members of the GRT & Black communities disproportionately affected by new trespass laws and stop and search tactics.

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The government have already used the pandemic to crack down on civil liberties and police misuse of power has seen hundreds of prosecutions under the Coronavirus Act thrown out. They cannot be allowed to make such misused legislation permanent, resulting in further miscarriages of justice, constraints on the rights of citizens and time wasting in our already stretched criminal justice system.

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Government responded

This response was given on 28 July 2021

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will make communities safer by preventing and cutting crime, bringing offenders to justice and ensuring that their punishment fits the crime.

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In December 2019, the Government was elected with manifesto commitments to make the country safer by empowering the police and courts to take more effective action against crime. This included specific commitments to enshrine "the Police Covenant into law"; "pass the Police Protection Bill"; tackle unauthorised encampments and introduce "a new court order to target known knife carriers, making it easier for officers to stop and search those convicted of knife crime". On courts and sentencing, it included commitments to empower the courts to address crime; ensure "a fair justice system" by introducing "tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and [ending] automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes"; toughen "community sentences, for example by tightening curfews and making those convicted do more hours of community payback"; and "turn people away from crime and end the cycle of reoffending". This Bill contains a number of measures to support the delivery of those commitments.

The measures in Part 3 of the Bill (public order) will not suppress the right to peaceful protest but will enable to the police to better manage disproportionately disruptive protests which infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.

Existing public order legislation was passed in 1986 and is no longer appropriate for managing the types of protests seen today. In a recent report the independent inspectorate for policing found that too often the balance of the rights of protesters and the rights of others leans too far in the favour of protesters and a modest reset is needed. These measures, which were drafted following engagement with the police and consideration of reports published by the Law Commission and the Joint Committee on Human Rights (in its 2019 report on threats to MPs), will support the police in ensuring the correct balance is struck.

Unauthorised encampments can, in some cases, cause damage, disruption or distress to those affected by them and it can be time-consuming and costly for landowners to have them removed or clean up after them. We know that the vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens - but unauthorised encampments often give an unfair, negative image of their communities. It is only right this Government seeks to protect the law-abiding citizens who are adversely affected by the harms caused by some unauthorised encampments.

The Government’s overarching aim is to ensure fair and equal treatment for travellers, in a way that facilitates their traditional and nomadic way of life, while respecting the interests of the settled community. However, we are equally clear that we will not tolerate law breaking and we are determined to ensure the police have the powers they need to support and serve their communities.

The new offence and amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 have not been designed, and will not be enforced on the basis of race or ethnicity. They apply to anyone who meets the conditions specified. Any enforcement measures against those who cause harm will be undertaken in compliance with equality and human rights obligations. The Government remains committed to delivering a cross-government strategy to tackle the inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) will give the police powers to take a more proactive approach toward knife crime and make it easier to target those already convicted of knife and offensive weapon offences – giving them the automatic right to search these offenders.

Most people who are sentenced for knife or offensive weapon offences are White, but adults from some ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately more likely to be sentenced for a knife or offensive weapon offence. It is therefore likely that most people who are made subject to SVROs will be White, adult males, although it may be that a disproportionate number of Black people are impacted.

At the same time, given that people from ethnic minorities are disproportionately more likely to be victims of serious violence, we believe that SVROs will have an important role in helping the police to take targeted action to break the cycle of offending and to protect our communities from harm. Data from 2018 to 2019 indicates that young black people are 24 times more likely to be victims of homicide than young white people.

Effective scrutiny and oversight will be critical. We must be transparent about how SVROs are being used and put in place clear and robust monitoring, both at local and national level, so that we can reassure communities that the orders are being used proportionately and effectively. This is why SVROs will be piloted before a decision is made on national roll-out.

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