The 2021 Bill on Police, Crime, Sentences and Courts is several hundred pages long and covers a wide range of issues that one would normally expect a government to address in various pieces of legislation. Tuesday will be the second day of his second reading in the House of Commons.
The bill proposes new conditions for “one-person protests,” which would allow police to end the one-person demonstration if the “noise generated by the person carrying out the protest can cause a serious interruption of the activities of a continuous organization in the vicinity of the protest “. This, in theory, could mean that someone protesting outside the headquarters of a private company could move if their protest alters the activity of that private company.
The bill also suggests, in somewhat imprecise language, that demonstrations and protests should not cause “intentionally” or “recklessly” cause “public nuisance”. This, according to the bill, may include an act that “obstructs the public or a part of the public in the exercise or enjoyment of a right that the general public may exercise or enjoy.”
The ambiguity of the bill has raised alarms for critics, ranging from human rights lawyers to lawmakers.
The specific inclusion of monuments has led many to point out a notable exclusion from this huge legislation that affects so many areas of law. At no point in the bill do the words “women” or “woman” appear.
This is particularly unfortunate, as much of the UK has been afflicted by the disappearance and death of a woman in London. Everard, 33, disappeared on March 3 after leaving a friend’s house early in the evening. His remains were found almost two weeks later. Everard’s death has sparked a wider public conversation about the violence, harassment and intimidation women face, including the hands of the police.
On Saturday, thousands of people gathered near where he had disappeared, both to grieve and to highlight the treatment of women. As the peaceful demonstration spread into the evening, arguments erupted with police, demanding that attendees disperse due to coronavirus restrictions. Things then became very ugly as officers were filmed and photographed physically dragging people into police vans.
The timing, therefore, of a far-reaching bill that makes criminals bigger than those that damage the statues of slave owners, but makes no mention of sexist violence, could hardly be worse.
“The priorities of this bill are completely wrong, suggesting a greater punishment for damaging a memorial than rape,” Sarah Jones, the shadow Labor minister in the opposition Labor Party, told CNN. “There is no concerted action to combat violence against women and girls, at a time when rape convictions are minimal and the bill does nothing to combat street harassment.”
Downing Street forwarded CNN’s list of questions about the bill to the Home Office, which it declined to answer.
Of course, the government did not know that events would clash in such a way. Still, legitimate questions can be asked about why such a comprehensive bill has not mentioned these prevalent problems.
“The government clearly thought it was playing smart politics by making the bill so huge that it could include its cultural war points on statues, but also things on how to make it less difficult for child abusers. thinking it would force us to oppose, ”says Jess Phillips, shadow minister of domestic violence and safeguarding. “Instead, they have written a bill that tells women more about how they can not protest violence against women than how we are protected from that violence.”
On Monday evening, the government seemed to acknowledge that it had a problem when it announced new measures to keep women safe from involving CCTV surveillance and covert police in bars and nightclubs. However, the announcement seemed a bit dull, given the current levels of police anger and the recent scandal in which secret agents abused their positions to such an extent that they had long-term sex. with women with false identities.
The bill, the weekend scenes and the issues the UK is dealing with are extremely unedifying to the country. On the one hand, the bill suggests that the government and police respond to criticism with a takeover.
“The presentation of the bill seems to support the idea that people in authority are struggling to react in proportion to protests that directly challenge their image as protectors of society. Both black life and the weekend demonstration directly condemn we know from a series of academic investigations that people respond violently when their own image is threatened and they try to regain control, “said Francis Dodsworth, a tenured professor of criminology at Kingston University.
On the other hand, the government claims that it is only trying to update the laws to allow modern demonstrations to take place safely. They point to the fact that work is being done on independent legislation that specifically addresses violence against women and girls.
Regardless of the intentions, the reality is that the UK government is currently presenting to parliament a major piece of legislation that says more about a criminal who smashes a statue that does not assault a woman. Which, given the very raw emotions and divisions in the country right now, will raise very important questions if the amendments are overturned and Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues, for no apparent reason, to push for these laws to be ‘approve sooner rather than later.
As Philips said, “There is absolutely no need to rush it now. And to do so sends a clear message: statues of dead men are more important in Britain than living women.”