Politics Explained

Policing bill: What are the new powers to ‘manage’ protests?

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will be debated by MPs this week: John Rentoul looks at what is in it

Monday 15 March 2021 12:43 GMT
Priti Patel and Boris Johnson made a manifesto promise to ‘back our police’
Priti Patel and Boris Johnson made a manifesto promise to ‘back our police’ (Getty)

Governments of whatever party seem to come up with a new “law and order” bill almost every year, and these often turn into great caravans of minor legal changes, many of which are uncontroversial. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will be debated by MPs on Monday and Tuesday, is the latest of its kind – and it has suddenly become intensely topical because of the debate over the policing of the vigil for Sarah Everard on Saturday.

The bill was originally intended to fulfil the promise in the 2019 Conservative manifesto to “back our police”, by increasing sentences for assaulting workers in the emergency services and by introducing “tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and [ending] automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes”.

But it also gave Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, the chance to legislate for changes to police powers that Cressida Dick, the Met Police commissioner, had asked for after the Extinction Rebellion protests in April 2019. Dick said her officers needed new powers “specifically to deal with protests where people are not primarily violent or seriously disorderly but, as in this instance, had an avowed intent to bring policing to its knees and the city to a halt”.

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