2 February 2022

Civil society groups representing more than 2000 organisations in the UK are urging MPs to fight for hard-won amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill when it returns to the House of Commons in the coming weeks.  

The CEOs of six civil society groups have signed an open letter to MPs expressing concerns about the bill and are calling for them to uphold the amendments made in the House of Lords last month, which would mitigate some of the worst impacts on the right to protest. These include:  

•    removing police ability to impose noise-based restrictions  
•    removing the clause that criminalises one-person protests 
•    removing the clause that provides police ability to impose further restrictions on public assemblies 
•    removing the “buffer zone” around Parliament unless authorisation has been given 

The letter also urges MPs to speak out more broadly against the bill – specifically, clauses that continue to undermine protest rights, despite the Lords’ amendment, and those that create new police powers to confiscate the homes of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families suspected of trespass.  

Vicky Browning, Chief Executive, ACEVO, said:  
“We were pleased that some of the controversial parts of the government’s bill were recently defeated in the House of Lords, though many other elements of the bill remain a concern. We stand alongside Gypsy and Traveller communities who face increased criminalisation of their way of life in the bill. 
“As the bill returns to the Commons, it is essential that the changes voted for by Peers are retained to avoid some of the worst implications for the right to protest. Protests are a central pillar of a healthy democracy, and it is vital that charity leaders can campaign freely in pursuit of their charitable objectives. We hope to see MPs supporting these changes to the bill.” 

Stephanie Draper, Chief Executive, Bond said:  
'“Many people protest at some point during their lives because they feel strongly about an issue and do not feel their voice can be heard in any other way. This is a critical part of social change, and it is important to be able to speak out on inequality and injustice. 
“The UK is attempting to curb protest rights at the very time when civil society is under attack globally.  Instead, the UK should be setting a positive example, not making it harder for people to exercise their democratic freedoms. As the bill returns to the Commons, we strongly urge MPs to support amendments made in the Lords and protest the rights of their constituencies to protest.” 

ENDS 
 
Notes to editor 

  • The letter has been sent to MPs today and can be read here 
  • The letter has been signed by Debra Allcock Tyler, Chief Executive, Directory of Social Change; Vicky Browning, Chief Executive, ACEVO; Stephanie Draper, Chief Executive, Bond; Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England; Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive, Sheila McKechnie Foundation; Sarah Vibert, interim Chief Executive, National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) 
  • For background, read about the Lords’ amendment to the Bill last month here: Government amendments to Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill defeated in House of Lords
  • For further information, please contact Juliet Conway, Media Adviser at Bond, on 07990518334 or [email protected]