If the government cares about freedom of expression, why is it passing the police and crime bill? | Kirsty Brimelow

If the government cares about freedom of expression, why is it passing the police and crime bill? | Kirsty Brimelow

The new legislation would crush the principle of policing by consent in the UK and stifle democratic change

  • Kirsty Brimelow is a QC and barrister at Doughty Street Chambers

The timing of the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill has generated precisely what it was seeking to minimise: more protests. Police clashed with “kill the bill” protesters in Bristol for the fourth time in a fortnight this weekend, as more than 1,000 people gathered to oppose the new legislation, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Reading the contents of the 300-page bill can feel like being trapped in a 21st-century version of Animal Farm. Though the government says that everyone has equal rights, the bill reflects the subtext of this official line: only as long as citizens pipe down and do as they are told. While it says that “freedom of expression is a cornerstone of British democracy”, the bill proposes amendments giving police greater powers to restrict protests that cause “intimidation or harassment” or “serious unease, alarm or distress” to bystanders.

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