Kill The Bill: Sheffield campaigners to protest against controversial crime bill on Saturday
A Sheffield campaign group will take it to the streets this weekend to protest against the new crime bill, which they said could have serious implications on human rights.
The campaigners will be converging on Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday (January 15) at 2pm to 'protest their right to protest'.
The protest, dubbed as 'Kill The Bill', will be the final legal protest before the bill, the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill, is expected to be passed.
January 15 has been designated as a nationwide day of action and protests are expected to take place in London and Manchester as well.
If passed in Parliament, the bill will give police more power to suppress protests, and those who take part in demonstrations could face jail time.
The bill is now at the report stage before going to the House of Lords for a third reading, after which it will proceed to the final stages before receiving Royal Assent. Only then will it become a piece of legislation.
The bill has received mixed views from the public. While many individuals believe the bill is an affront on their democratic right to protest, others believe it would help people safe if violent protests occur.
What is in the bill?
New changes to the bill give police more power to stop and search people to avoid 'serious disruption' or 'public nuisance.'
New proposals say that police officers will be able to search members of the public 'whether or not the constable has any reason to believe that the person is carrying a prohibited object’.
People who try to stop or obstruct a stop and search could also be jailed for up to 51 weeks or fined.
'Wilful obstruction of a highway' and 'obstruction of major transport works' have also been made crimes.
As part of the amendments, 'locking on' has also been made a crime, as has carrying equipment that could be used to help with the proposed crime.
Both could lead to sentences of up to 51 weeks.
Serious disruption prevention orders (SDPOs) have also been changed. They can be given to anyone who is convicted of a 'protest-related offence’, which is a very broad category.
Under the new proposals, the order could now be given to anyone who did something that was 'likely to cause major disruption,' even if they had been convicted of a crime.
Police will also be able to stop the protest if the protest is found to be loud enough to make people who aren't in the protest feel intimidated or harassed or make them feel 'serious unease, alarm or distress'.
What are the concerns?
Despite objections, the Goverment maintains that the bill will improve policing and protect the community.
Priti Patel, the home secretary said that there had to be a ‘balance’ between the rights of protesters and the rights of people to go about their daily lives.
Opposition lawmakers and rights groups have criticised what they see as a move to give police overly broad, and potentially problematic, powers.
Many say they need more time to work through the potential implications.
Sheffield had its last Kill The Bill protest in May last year at Endcliffe Park.