A parliamentary inquiry into the Clapham vigil and Bristol protests has recommended that new powers for the police to prevent peaceful protests should be removed from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill currently being considered by Parliament. Further, a new statutory code for the policing of protests should be issued by the Home Secretary and make clear that the police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest.
The report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and the Constitution, was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, and prepared by the Institute for Constitutional and Democratic Research based on parliamentary hearings and evidence from attendees at the events, the police, legal and other experts.
Geraint Davies MP Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and the Constitution commented:
“Our inquiry underlines that the law must be clear that the police have a duty to facilitate the right to peaceful protest and changes should be made to the PCSC Bill to reinforce not undermine those rights and duties”
“The right to peaceful protest has been used by suffragettes, peace and climate campaigners, trade unionists and others as an essential part of our democracy to inspire change and must be supported not suppressed by the law.
“We need to remember Robert Peel’s founding principle of ‘The police are the public and the public are the police’ and for them to facilitate peaceful protest as an essential part of our democracy.
“The police must not become the enforcement agency of the state against those who choose to publicly and collectively call for change - political, economic, social or environmental. Parliament must protect our freedoms and rejects attempts to increase police power and restrict our right to peaceful protest. The police should help to facilitate the expression of peaceful protest and not drive opposition underground.
“We are greatly thankful to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Reform Trust for funding this inquiry and our secretariat and counsel Dr. Sam Fowles Director of the Institute for Constitutional and Democratic Research for preparing it.” Our Parliamentary panelists said:-
Jonathan Djanogly MP, member of the parliamentary inquiry, added:
“Clearly the Police understanding of their powers under the current law was lacking. In turn this led to decisions being made by certain police in the context of particular demonstrations, with negative implications for public order and ultimately trust in the police. I would suggest that these issues need be more urgently addressed than lowering the threshold for police to impose further conditions on assemblies, as proposed in the PCSC Bill.”