How Crime Bill threatens our liberties – Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Mark Harrison, Garbutt Lane, Swainby, Northallerton.

Police officers outside New Scotland Yard, central London, during a Reclaim the Streets protest in memory of Sarah Everard who went missing while walking home from a friend's flat on March 3.

I HAVE grave concerns about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (The Yorkshire Post, March 16).

The sacrifices made defeating totalitarianism in the Second World War are inspirational. As the first-hand pain and collective memory dwindles, wisdom critical to a civilised society is lost and the risk of extremism rises.

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To reduce this, some countries, such as modern Germany, educate their citizens in the origins of the rise of fascism. It is shocking that our Government is imposing on England what Hitler failed to do, i.e. the removal and restriction of our rights to assemble and protest peacefully.

Demonstrators during a Reclaim the Streets protest on Westminster Bridge, central London, in memory of Sarah Everard who went missing while walking home from a friend's flat on March 3

The Bill has many good intentions; a summary is to improve safety, penalise serious crimes more severely and improve court efficiency.

A closer look shows a sinister, subsidiary aim to “strengthen police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect on the public or on access to Parliament”.

Joshua Rozenberg, the highly respected legal journalist, concludes: “Peaceful protesters who have caused inconvenience but no damage – or damage but no inconvenience – will, for the first time be facing lengthy prison sentences.”

Are we to accept being dictated to, unable to protest peacefully and living in fear of a 10-year prison sentence? Should protests such as that against the disastrous Iraq war be banned? Should those who took part in Countryside Alliance and more recent NFU and Save British Farming protests be imprisoned because they might have annoyed someone?

Why do the sponsors of the Bill, including Rishi Sunak, act to suppress dissent? Is this the “taking back control” which they intended all along? Like autocrats, they appear to only want the “will of the people” when it suits them.

From: Mark White, Chestnut Meadows, Tollerton, York.

ON Tuesday, Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake supported the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. No doubt he will point to aspects of this legislation that attract widespread public support – stronger management of terrorists and sex offenders, for example.

But there are worrying implications of Mr Hollinrake’s vote. Primarily, it conceals a major blow to human rights – in particular the right to assemble and to protest peacefully.

In the future, instead of using Covid-19 legislation to impose a £10,000 fine on a nurse protesting peacefully against a one per cent pay rise, the police can resort to this Bill.

Section 59 of the new law allows a 10-year prison sentence for anyone who causes serious harm by ‘creating serious annoyance’ to another person. Seriously; serious annoyance – 10 years!

To thrive after Covid and Brexit, we need investment in human capital and economic growth – not suppression of dissent and creativity. As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty, Mr Hollinrake will appreciate this more than most. All the more baffling that he voted for such an ill thought-out, populist Bill. Would he care to explain his actions to his constituents?

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