The Green MP for Brighton Pavilion has criticised the policing of the vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard in Clapham at the weekend.
Caroline Lucas spoke out as the Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel made a statement to the House of Commons about it today (Monday 15 March).
The Brighton Pavilion MP said: “I acknowledge the particular policing challenges at a time of covid restrictions, but the Met is still obliged to follow the Human Rights Act and execute its powers proportionately and only when necessary.
“It is clear to everyone that it got it terribly wrong on Saturday night.
“Does the Secretary of State therefore not see that handing over yet more draconian powers to the police when they have so badly misjudged this situation would be both foolish and dangerous?
“A bill that criminalises protests that are noisy and have impact effectively means cancelling this country’s long-standing right to peaceful protest altogether.
“Finally, will she stand in solidarity with the women arrested over the weekend and call for the withdrawal of any fixed-penalty notices that were issued because of the Met’s disproportionate response?”
The Home Secretary said: “I will not go over my comments about the police on Saturday evening. Those points have been made.
“I absolutely disagree with what the honourable lady said but we will discuss it further on the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill later this afternoon.
“The fact is that, as a country, we believe in freedom of expression, free speech and the rights of people to express themselves freely through protest – managed protest – in the right way.
“The police always engage with individuals and organisers.
“We will debate this during the course of the bill but I am afraid that the honourable lady has completely misrepresented the proposals that we are putting forward.”
To read the Home Secretary’s statement on “policing and prevention of violence against women” – and the subsequent questions and debate – click here.
The Labour MP for Hove, Peter Kyle, spoke during the debate later about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill when he said that the Home Secretary was “asleep on the job”.
Mr Kyle criticised delays in bringing cases to court and the extra suffering that this caused, in particular, to victims of rape and sexual assault.
And he spoke about “sex for rent”, telling the Home Secretary that he had contacted her predecessors about the scandal.
Mr Kyle said: “Amber Rudd, when she was Home Secretary, set up a workstream up to tackle this issue. It has been cancelled.
“We have been trying very long and very hard to give protection to those 30,000 women every year who are propositioned for sex in return for rent. Is it not time that this cross-party offer is taken up?”
Priti Patel said: “I am actually not aware of that workstream being cancelled … so I would be more than happy to come back to the House (of Commons) and follow up with … the honourable member for Hove.”
The Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, said: “This is a Trojan horse bill and the Home Secretary is Sinon at the gates of Troy saying, ‘I’m the only one left! Please let me in with this fantastic bill that’s going to do all the things that you opposition backbenchers have been asking me to do.’
“Well, we see that hidden in the bill there are some nasty and pernicious laws.
“Many of the good things in the bill could be achieved by either amending or bringing forward separate bills, such as the Death by Dangerous Driving (Sentencing) Bill, promoted by the right honourable member for Maidenhead (Theresa May).
“Instead, the government has put forward a bill that is so big, so expansive and so diverse that it covers two departments, so that they can squeeze the good things in as well as those that deny the rights of people.
“If we allowed this to stand, every government would do it, would they not?
“They would put pernicious rules into what, in public speaking, we call a ‘something sandwich’, where you put the bad in the middle and sandwich it with the good. That is what the bill is.
“I will come on to what the particularly bad things are but there are also great missed opportunities.
“I sat on the Upskirting Bill Committee. We pushed amendments and the government accepted that they would explore bringing forward misogyny as a hate crime.
“Where is that in this bill? That could have been included and it is so disappointing that it is not. There are clearly missed opportunities.
“Part 3 of the bill is particularly problematic and notably the use of the phrase ‘serious unease’.
“To tell the truth, I find myself feeling serious unease when certain government members speak and I disagree with them.
“But in a democracy, I can feel unease, disagree and even think that they are saying things that are offensive, but they are not criminalised.
“During the Brexit debates, in the main, the protests outside this place by UKIP and Brexit Party supporters and by the remainers were eccentric and annoying to many of us at the time.
“But to me, it summarised the beauty of British democracy when those peaceful protesters, sometimes of opposing forces, were ringing bells and shouting into horns.
“Now there is the idea that the police could say, ‘You’ve gone a decibel over. You’re a criminal.’
“Many of the people on protests will not even know that the police have laid orders down because it will not be widely known so we will be criminalising people without them even knowing it.
“I have not even got on to some of the really pernicious measures in the bill, such as those on traveller communities.
“If we had decent move-on sites and decent support from local authorities and made sure that we worked with the community, we could resolve the problems.
“Surrey has no move-on sites whatsoever. No wonder there are problems in that county.
“Those are the things we need to deal with rather than criminalising. The idea that someone in a layby over one night could be considered a criminal …”
At his point Mr Russell-Moyle ran out of time.
To read the debate in full, click here.
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