Jump to content

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 

Recommended Posts



What is the Police and Crime Bill?

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (sometimes shortened to the Police and Crime Bill or Policing Bill) is a proposed new law which would bring major changes to criminal justice in England and Wales.

Among the changes, it would give police new powers to restrict or even ban demonstrations – including setting “maximum noise levels” on static protests deemed to cause “serious unease” to others.

A new public nuisance offence could see a person sentenced up to 10 years in prison for causing “serious annoyance”, distress, or damaging property or public statues.

The Government says these aspects of the Bill are a reaction to disruptive protests like those held by Extinction Rebellion in 2019, and Insulate Britain in 2020.



A proposed new law, which has sparked protests and clashes, is reaching its final stages in Parliament.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a mammoth piece of legislation that includes major government proposals on crime and justice in England and Wales. One part of it covers changes to protests.

What powers do police have now?

If the police want to place restrictions on a protest, they generally have to show it may result in "serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community".

They can also impose specific measures on the routes of marches.

When it comes to major events, such as the Cop26 protests, details are typically thrashed out with the organisers weeks in advance.

How will the bill change those powers?

Police chiefs will be able to put more conditions on static protests, such as those organised by Extinction Rebellion where roads and bridges were occupied.

They will be able to:

  • Impose a start and finish time
  • Set noise limits
  • Apply these rules to a demonstration by just one person

Taken to an extreme, let's say there's an individual holding a protest placard, while blasting out their views on a speaker.

If they refuse to follow police directions over how they should conduct their protest, they could be fined up to £2,500.

It will also become a crime to fail to follow restrictions the protesters "ought" to have known about, even if they have not received a direct order from an officer.

At present, police need to prove protesters knew they had been told to move on, before they can be said to have broken the law.

The proposed law includes an offence of "intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance".

This is designed to stop people occupying public spaces, hanging off bridges, gluing themselves to windows, or employing other protest tactics to make themselves both seen and heard.

In October, the government proposed changes to the bill, including tougher penalties for protests on motorways after the campaign group Insulate Britain blocked major roads in England.

One final measure clarifies that damage to memorials could lead to up to 10 years in prison. This follows the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Image caption,
Extinction Rebellion protests brought much of central London to a standstill in 2019

What about human rights?

The right to protest and express yourself is enshrined in the Human Rights Act. Police commanders have to show they have taken this into account.

But that right is not absolute. Protests can be limited by police if they believe they have good reason to impose restrictions on an event to ensure public safety, or to prevent crime.

The Home Office insists its proposals will respect human rights.

But the problem is the history of public protest is littered with long and complex legal battles over whether police have used their powers properly.

One of the most important cases - about the police's power to contain a crowd for an indefinite period - took 11 years of courtroom arguments to reach the conclusion that the tactic was lawful.

What do critics say?

The Labour Party opposes the protest measures.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper says the legislation has been "rushed" and will create "incredibly widely drawn" powers, "for example, allowing the police to stop and search anyone in the vicinity of a protest, including passers-by, people on the way to work and peaceful protesters".

Rights of Women, a campaign group, says the bill fails to introduce long-called-for measures that could reduce violence against women and girls, such as providing more support in communities.

However, the government says that other parts of the legislation toughen sentencing for serious violent and sexual offences and introduce new police bail rules for suspects under investigation.

The bill will also place a legal duty on police and local authorities to come up with a joint action plan to tackle serious violence.

What else does the legislation propose?

  • Changing sentencing rules so that serious criminals spend more time in jail before they can be conditionally released
  • Judges will be allowed to consider jailing child murderers for their entire lives
  • Maximum sentences for low-level assaults against emergency service workers doubled to two years
  • On terrorism, the bill creates powers to more closely monitor offenders released from prison
  • Community sentences for less serious crime to address underlying problems in offenders' lives
  • Changes to sexual offences law to tackle abusive adults in positions of trust, such as sports coaches and religious figures
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...