Sheffield MP hits out at controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

A Sheffield MP has hit out at the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill over the impact it would have on protests and for not going far enough to make people feel safe.

By Claire Lewis
Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 1:35 pm

The Bill was passed by MPs yesterday at its second reading in the House of Commons and is now one step closer to becoming law.

It includes a number of reforms including doubling the maximum prison sentence for assaulting an emergency worker and scrapping the automatic release of serious and violent sexual offenders from prison mid way through their sentences.

If given full approval, Whole Life Orders would be allowed for the premeditated murder of a child.

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Sheffield MP Olivia Blake

Life sentences for killer drivers would also be allowed and unauthorised encampments would become illegal.

But critics are concerned that it curtails the rights of people to protest.

The Bill gives police more powers to crack down on protests which are significantly disruptive to the public or on access to parliament.

An offence of ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’ is included in the bill.

Officers could also be given more powers to impose conditions such as time and noise limits on protests.

In response, and referring to the policing of a vigil in Clapham Common last weekend after the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard as she walked him in London, MP Olivia Blake said: “Like many of my constituents, I was shocked by the images that came out of Clapham Common over the weekend. There’s something very ugly about a group of women being manhandled, pushed to the ground, and pinned for mourning yet another victim of male violence against women.

“The Home Secretary says this legislation will make us safer. But after the weekend I don’t feel safer.

“The events of Saturday night show us the opposite of what the Home Secretary has concluded: far from the police not having enough powers, the sad truth is that the power they do have is already open to abuse.

“This Bill is the latest in a trilogy which rather than safeguard our right to protest, grants even more powers to crack down on dissent. And rather than addressing the real problems in our courts – just look at the huge backlog of cases waiting to go to trial, many of which will be domestic abuse cases – the Government wants to hand out harsher punishments for damaging a statue, than for harassing a woman in the street.

“So, I don’t feel safer. And there’s one group of people who will feel significantly less safe and less secure because of this Bill – the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. If the Government were serious about addressing the issue of unauthorised encampments, they’d tackle the real problem – the shortage of places where it’s permitted to stop and reside.

“All this legislation will do is strip people of their homes, push them into the criminal justice system and criminalise the way of life of an already persecuted community.”

She added: “What we needed today was a policing, crime, sentencing and courts Bill that dealt with the real problems in the criminal justice system, respecting our rights to protest and to live our lives how we choose. That’s what makes people safer. What we got was the opposite.”

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