- Boris Johnson is set to pass a new law banning protests that are noisy or cause “annoyance.”
- The law also limits the right to protest outside the UK parliament and carries a maximum sentence of ten years.
- The legislation comes as London’s police force comes under criticism for its heavy-handed response over the weekend to a vigil for the murdered woman Sarah Everard.
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to bring forward a controversial new law this week which could outlaw any protest which is noisy or causes “serious annoyance,” with protesters facing up to ten years in prison.
Members of the UK parliament will debate the police, crime, sentencing bill at its second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday, which would give police officers significantly greater powers to crack down on protests.
The measures would make it illegal for protests to cause “serious unease” and introduce criminal penalties for people who cause “serious annoyance”
The law will also create new restrictions limiting the right to protest outside the UK Parliament, while introducing penalties of up to ten years for defacing public monuments.
The legislation comes amid public outcry over the Metropolitan Police Force’s heavy-handed response this weekend to a vigil in London for Sarah Everard, who was abducted and murdered last week while walking home from a friend’s house.
Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer, has been charged with Everard’s kidnap and murder.
Several hundred people had gathered peacefully at Clapham Common on Saturday to mourn the 33-year-old’s death, and police officers responded to by handcuffing and arresting several women from the gathering.
-Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) March 14, 2021
The opposition Labour party had been planning to abstain on the bill but now plan to vote against it the party said on Sunday.
David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said in a statement: “The tragic death of Sarah Everard has instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women. This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest.”
-David Lammy (@DavidLammy) March 14, 2021
Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by footage of police officers being detained at Saturday’s vigil, but Downing Street sources told Politico the prime minister retained “full confidence” in Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, who has refused to resign.
The government also has no plans to row back from the new restrictions on protests, Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins told the BBC on Sunday.
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