Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022


The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament which was introduced by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice[1][2] and enacted on 28 April 2022. The Act overhauls police, criminal justice, and sentencing legislation, and encompasses disparate areas of existing law including knife crime, protests, crimes against children, and sentencing limits. It was passed by the Houses of Parliament on 26th April 2022[3] and received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022.[4]

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision about the police and other emergency workers; to make provision about collaboration between authorities to prevent and reduce serious violence; to make provision about offensive weapons homicide reviews; to make provision for new offences and for the modification of existing offences; to make provision about the powers of the police and other authorities for the purposes of preventing, detecting, investigating or prosecuting crime or investigating other matters; to make provision about the maintenance of public order; to make provision about the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles; to make provision in connection with driving offences; to make provision about cautions; to make provision about bail and remand; to make provision about sentencing, detention, release, management and rehabilitation of offenders; to make provision about secure 16 to 19 Academies; to make provision for and in connection with procedures before courts and tribunals; and for connected purposes.
Citation2022 c.32
Introduced byRobert Buckland, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain (Commons)
Susan Williams, Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State for Home Affairs (Lords)
Territorial extentEngland and Wales
Dates
Royal assent28 April 2022
Commencement28 April 2022
History of passage through Parliament
Records of Parliamentary debate relating to the statute from Hansard

BackgroundEdit

Since 2019, there have been significant direct action campaigns by pressure groups in the UK. In April and October 2019, large protests were held by Extinction Rebellion, and the Black Lives Matter movement held large protests in the summer of 2020. In Autumn 2021, significant protests were conducted by Insulate Britain.[citation needed]

Some of these protests have involved disruptive direct action.[5][6][7] The bill can be viewed as in response to Extinction Rebellion protests, whose activists used adhesives to attach themselves to public transport vehicles. In June 2020, the statue of philanthropist and slave trader Edward Colston was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest. The statue was a Grade II listed structure, although four individuals charged with criminal damage for removing the statue were found not guilty at Bristol Crown Court on January 5, 2022. Activists from Insulate Britain have used adhesives to attach themselves to the road surface at entrances to the M25 Motorway.[citation needed]

The new methods of direct action have been controversial. An opinion poll by YouGov in October 2019 found that 36% of those surveyed supported disruption to public transport by Extinction Rebellion, whilst 54% opposed.[8] In one instance, members of the public removed the protesters from a train at Canning Town Underground Station. A YouGov poll in October 2019 found that 63% of those surveyed sympathised more with the commuters than the protestors, and 13% sympathised more with the protestors.[9] In June 2020, a survey by Policy Exchange found that 25% of people are in favour of removing statues of individuals who earned significant wealth from the Transatlantic Slave Trade, whilst 65% believe that the statues should continue to stand.[10] Opinion polling conducted by YouGov from 5–6 October 2021 found that 72% of those surveyed opposed the actions of Insulate Britain activists, with 18% supporting the actions, and 10% that did not know.[11]

According to the UK Government "the National Police Chief’s Council have expressed concerns that existing public order legislation is outdated and no longer appropriate for responding to the highly disruptive protest tactics used by some groups today".[12] The government have further stated that "the measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will improve the police’s ability to manage such protests, enabling them to balance the rights of protesters against the rights of others to go about their daily business, and to dedicate their resources to keeping the public safe".[12]

Contents of the ActEdit

The Act was enacted in April 2022 and includes major proposals by the Johnson government to reform the criminal justice system.[13][14] As criminal justice is largely a devolved matter, the provisions of the Act primarily only extend to England and Wales, although some provisions apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.[15]

Provisions in the Act include allowing judges to give whole life orders (life imprisonment with no possibility of parole) for the premeditated murder of a child, life sentences for drivers who kill behind the wheel, and increasing the maximum sentence from 3 months to 10 years for criminal damage to a memorial.[16]

The Act expands police powers allowing officers widespread access to private education and health care records, and suspicionless stop and search.[17]

It contains trespass provisions, which make "residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle" a criminal offense. Under the new offence, a person can be criminalised for disobeying the instruction of a private citizen, which does not have to be made in writing.[17] Following the bill's first defeat, the government added an amendment that would repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824, described as "offensive and outdated".[18] Harper's Law was also included in the Bill.[19]

Effects on public assemblyEdit

Part 3 of the Act gives police forces broad authority to place restrictions on protests and public assembly. Under previous UK legislation, police must show that a protest may cause "serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community" before imposing any restrictions.[13] Under this Act, police forces will be allowed to place restrictions on protests they believe would otherwise constitute an existing offence of public nuisance, including imposing starting and finishing times and noise limits, and will be able to consider actions by one individual as "protests" under provisions of the Act. Protestors disobeying such instructions from the police may be committing a criminal offence. [13][14]

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the bill updates the Public Order Act and drew a distinction between peaceful protest and "activities which inhibit the lives of people."[20] Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice, said regarding the bill and protests: "We've got to think about the sometimes huge inconvenience caused to other people going about their lawful business [...]."[21]

ResponseEdit

The bill was welcomed by the Police Federation of England and Wales.[22] In contrast, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, a group of elected officials in England and Wales, registered their disagreement with the bill. On the topic of proposed legally-binding restrictions on protests, Paddy Tipping, Chair of the APCC, stated: "I think politicians would be wise to leave decisions to the responsible people." Tipping added that "they've got to leave people to make local decisions in local circumstances."[23] Michael Barton and Peter Fahy, the former chief constables of Durham Constabulary and Greater Manchester Police respectively, said in March 2021 that the law threatened civil liberties and constituted a politically-motivated move towards paramilitary policing.[24]

The advocacy group Liberty claimed the bill "threatens protest".[25] Broadcaster and writer Kenan Malik warned the bill reduced the right to protest to "whispering in the corner".[26] David Blunkett called it an "anti-protest bill" threatening to make Britain look like Putin's Russia.[27]

As of January 2022, despite initial "Kill the Bill" protests by grass-roots groups no mass movement opposing this bill has come together.[17]

Protest and riot in Bristol, 21 March 2021Edit

Thousands of protestors against the bill gathered in College Green in Bristol city centre on Sunday, 21 March 2021, in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.[28] Some held placards reading "Kill the Bill" amongst other slogans. The protestors marched through the city centre without intervention, before a confrontation between police and a few hundred protestors staging a sit-in at Bridewell Police Station led to an outbreak of violence in which, it was claimed, two assaulted police officers were left with serious injuries.[29][30] Police then retracted this statement after a statement from a police spokesperson falsely claimed officers were injured. [31] Police vehicles were set alight and protestors were visually recorded attempting to set fire to a police vehicle with officers inside.[32] Protestors set off fireworks, and the police station was graffitied and damaged by protesters.[33][29]Avon and Somerset Police retracted claims on 25 March that any officers suffered broken bones or punctured lungs.[34][35] There was also controversy over the alleged assault of Daily Mirror journalist Matthew Dresch on 26 March, as video footage showed him being pushed and hit with a baton while stating that he was a journalist, which police appeared to acknowledge, as well as a woman in her 20s. Later a high-ranking officer with Avon and Somerset "extended apologies" for the incident.[36]

Response to the disorder in Bristol, 21 March 2021Edit

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said at the time that it was a "shameful day" for Bristol, and Andy Marsh, the then Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, said the peaceful protest had been hijacked by “violent extremists and criminals”.[37]

A huge appeal was launched to identify people who had joined in the disorder, and a number of people have been convicted as a result. The majority were convicted of riot, but several were convicted of a different charge.[37] As of April 28, 2022, fifteen people had been jailed in connection with the riot for a total of 57 years and 11 months.[38]

 
"Kill the Bill" protest in Leicester, April 2021

Further protests, March–January 2022Edit

Subsequent "Kill the Bill" protests were held in Bristol on Tuesday 23 March[39] and Friday 26 March,[40] and in Manchester and Sheffield[41] on 27 March 2021.[42]

The Easter weekend saw protests in London, Bristol, Leicester, Guildford, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Brighton, Weymouth, and Luton.[43][44] Advocacy group Liberty said they would take legal action against the Metropolitan Police following the arrests of two legal observers.[45] Protests have continued since, with a London march on 1 May described as "the biggest 'kill the bill' protest yet".[46]

Further demonstrations took took place in cities including London, Bristol, Coventry, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Plymouth on Saturday 15 January 2022 ahead of a key vote on the proposed bill on Monday 17 January 2022.[47]

Progress through parliamentEdit

The bill's second reading was on 15–16 March 2021,[48] by 359 votes to 263.[49][50] As of 30 April, the bill had passed to the committee stage for consideration by the public bill committee. The committee was due to report back to Parliament by 24 June.[51] The Big Issue subsequently claimed that this date was delayed, partly due to pressure from protests.[52] The third reading of the bill was agreed to by the House of Commons on 5 July 2021 by 365 votes to 265, a majority of 100.[53] On December 15, 2021, the House of Lords continued the report stage after accepting a number of amendments.[54]

On January 17, 2022, the Bill came up for debate in the House of Lords amid widespread protests.[55] The Lords subsequently rejected many of the bill's key provisions, with one peer branding the restrictions on protests "repressive" and "nasty".[56] The bill then went back to the Commons to be discussed and amended.[57]

In February 2022, the Commons once again voted in favour of the bill, although several MPs expressed concerns over the restrictions on protests.[58] On March 22, the House of Lords once again rejected the proposed legislation and demanded that the restrictions on protests be removed, sending the bill back to the House of Commons.[59][60]

On 26 April 2022, the House of Lords passed the bill by 180 votes to 133.[61]

On 28 April 2022, the Act received Royal Assent.[62][63]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit