The government’s controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill received Royal Assent today.
Opponents described it as “a dark day for civil liberties in the UK”.
The bill gives police powers to clamp down on noisy protests in England and Wales and place conditions on demonstrations.
Earlier this week, the House of Lords voted to approve the bill, rejecting Labour and Lib Dem moves to remove curbs and conditions on protests.
The government agreed to a requirement for the Home Secretary to conduct a review of the new powers within two years.
A government press release this afternoon said the bill would:
“strengthen police powers to tackle non-violent protest that have a significant disruptive effect on the public or access to parliament”.
But the measures on noisy protest have been criticised as “highly subjective” and open to challenge in the courts.
Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK, described the bill as a “hugely worrying and widespread attack on human rights”:
“This is dark day for civil liberties in the UK. This deeply-authoritarian Bill places profound and significant restrictions on the basic right to peacefully protest and will have a severely detrimental impact on the ability of ordinary people to make their concerns heard.
“Protest is a cherished part of British history – from the anti-slavery movement, to the suffragettes and recent anti-war marches and the Policing Bill is in direct conflict with the values of freedom and liberty that this government claims o uphold.”
The police monitoring network, Netpol, which has opposed the bill, said this afternoon:
“Protest has not suddenly become illegal. However the new measures mean that the police will have new poorly-defined powers. In practice, the police will choose when and how to impose restrictions on protests and this is likely to lead to widespread abuse of these powers
“If you’re going to a protest, knowing your rights will become more important than ever. New police powers aim to further criminalise protesters who use direct action or civil disobedience tactics.”
Netpol plans to launch its Defending Dissent campaign next week.