Sheffield Labour MPs urge government to rethink ‘draconian’ police bill
Labour MPs are calling on the government to think again after Conservatives voted through a “draconian” bill that gives “harsher sentences for damaging a statue than attacking women”.
The 307-page Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill had its second reading – the first chance MPs get to vote on a proposed law – in Parliament on Tuesday, March 16.
It was passed with 358 votes to 263, with Conservatives voting for and all other parties voting against.
Votes against were primarily over proposals to allow police significant leeway to stop protests on grounds including noise and disruption to the public.
Labour was set to abstain but changed its stance following outrage at the Metropolitan Police for using physical force against peaceful protesters at a vigil for Sarah Everard, which highlighted concerns about police overreaching powers.
Members of the party also noted proposals to make defacing statues and monuments punishable by up to 10 years in jail could theoretically mean someone could be more harshly punished for this than rape.
Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “The images of policing at the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard were shocking. I voted against the Bill because – rather than handing more powers to police to crack down on those women, and all those who express their right to protest – the Government should address the issues they were raising, like the ordeal of getting a conviction for male violence against women, or the backlog of cases waiting to be heard in courts.
“While the Bill attacked our right to protest and the rights of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, it had nothing to say on these important issues.”
Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Heeley, said: “This was a big opportunity for meaningful sentencing reform but, instead, the Government brought forward a Bill that sought to divide the country. It is a mess, which includes harsher sentences for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.
“In the wake of Sarah Everard’s tragic murder, people are rightly demanding action to tackle violence against women. The last thing the Government should be doing is rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose draconian controls on free expression and the right to protest.
“I won’t support a Bill that clamps down on civil liberties while ignoring the violence and abuse that women and girls face.”
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said: “The Bill exposed Conservative priorities. It had tougher sentences for attacking statues than assaulting women. It missed the chance to challenge misogyny and violence against women, and did nothing for victims.
“It bundled some positive measures on protecting emergency workers, sexual abuse by people in positions of trust, and causing death by dangerous driving with deeply unacceptable limits on rights to protest.
“When we should have been coming together around the measures the country wants, this Bill was designed to create division. I urge the Government to think again.”
It will now go into a committee stage where MPs will try to pick away at the most controversial elements of the proposed law before it is passed in full, and handed over to the Lords.