Police boss writes to home secretary over protest bill

A police boss who describes himself as an “experienced protester” says a report on how protests are policed is one sided and undermines civil and political rights.

Arfon Jones, North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner
Arfon Jones, North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is so concerned that he has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to complain about it.

The UK Government used the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service, 'Getting the balance right?', when drafting the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

According to the inspectors, the balance had tipped too heavily in favour of protesters.

The legislation will give the police powers to set start and end times for static protests, and stop protests if they are judged to be too noisy or too “disruptive”.

Protesters face fines of up to £2,500 and up to 10 years in jail if they are convicted.

Rights

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “Although equilibrium should be struck between individual rights to protest and the general interests of the community, I simply do not agree the balance tips too readily in favour of protestors.

“The recommendations in the report are one sided and undermine civil and political rights, and are not in the public interest.

“The new powers in the proposed act are not necessary and will prevent protest as we know today. .

“The police have enough powers to police protests and do not need more. Policing protests has always been, and always will be, a tool of the state to control its citizens and I will have no truck with it.

“Automatic Facial Recognition in non-violent protests is a privacy intrusion and should not be used and non-violent protests should be policed as events not as a public order exercise.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will afford new powers to officers to tackle protests, including measures aimed at static protests and a new offence of ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’, which is in part defined as causing ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’.

“The report is short-term and politically driven. Policing should be very careful not to be drawn into the situation of being arbiters of which protests can go ahead and become stuck in the middle.

“The policing of industrial action in the 1970s reminds us that policing protests may cause long-term damage on the relationships between community and police."

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