The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has passed its first parliamentary hurdle. The Bill includes major government proposals on crime and justice in England and Wales.
Some of these proposals have led to ‘Kill the Bill’ protests (some violent) around the country.
The Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle put the following questions about the Bill to the four Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner candidates:
- Do you believe that the Government’s new policing Bill gets the balance wrong? Protestors say that the “enormous and unprecedented extension” of policing powers will put too much power in the hands of the state, which will effectively ban protests, including peaceful ones. Do you agree that everyone has the right to protest?
- Under the proposals, those who fail to act in accordance with police rules could be issued a £2,500 fine, this could be issued to those who “ought” to have known about restrictions, rather than the police needing to prove that protesters knew, is that fair?
- Is it right that someone damaging a memorials could end up to being sentenced to 10 years in prison?
- Do you think that the Bill’s proposed maximum sentence for low-level assaults against emergency service workers of two years is strong enough?
This is how they responded:
Patrick Hamill, Independent Candidate
“The new laws on protesting are unfortunately a sign of the times. Everyone has a right to protest but no one has the right to use threatening behaviour or even violence in their quest to be heard. When civilised people demand change we can also use the ballot box as well as peaceful protests. That is our democracy in action.
“The £2,500 fine is sending out a message that no one has the right to cause damage, harm or injure innocent bystanders or the police who are tasked to keep us safe. We have to trust the police to make the right call on protests or what are we left with to protect those who want to go about their life in a peaceful way?
“You will find that the vast majority of our law abiding population in my opinion have had enough of protests that turn nasty. This happens far too often, which seems to have become the norm in recent times. Let’s hope the new proposals act as the deterrent we have been waiting for.
“Ten years for damaging a monument is a bit excessive but I do agree with a one year sentence and paying for the damage. For repeat offenders the term in prison should increase accordingly.
“On the subject of attacks on emergency service workers there should be an automatic one month prison sentence, extended, depending on the severity of the attack.”
Jas Parmar, LibDem Candidate
“Protest is a human right in free society and not a gift from the Govt. We cannot go around criticising countries like Russia and China for their heavy-handed approach to protest and ourselves pass laws that forbids public to express their displeasure or disagreement.
“When the state starts dictating what is a lawful protest and what isn’t, we leave ourselves open to litigation and ridicule by those who oppose democracy.
“It is dangerous to leave it to the Home Secretary to decide where the line should be drawn.
“The £2500 fine is just another example of guilty unless proven innocent.
“No one should be destroying any statues or public property no matter who the person is. Having said that, the councils should be sensitive to the feelings of the public and there needs to be education about the imperial past. The sentence is clearly disproportionate given that physical violence, sexual violence and manslaughter carries lesser sentence.
“Violence against anyone in the execution of their duty is wrong whether they are emergency services, shopkeepers, bar staff or taxi drivers and deserves appropriate penalty.”
The Chronicle also approached the Labour candidate, David Michael and the Conservative candidate, Festus Akinbusoye, but they did not provide their views on the Bill.