CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP LIBERTY has warned that the UK Government’s new criminal justice legislation risks stifling dissent, criminalising Gypsy and Traveller communities, and subjecting marginalised communities to profiling and even more disproportionate policing.

The Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was announced on 9 March 2021, and will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 15 and 16 March. The Bill introduces a raft of changes to the criminal justice system which include restrictions on protest, new stop and search powers, a ‘Prevent-style’ duty on knife crime, and a move to criminalise trespass.

Gracie Bradley, Liberty Director, said: “It’s a primary duty of Government to ensure that our communities are safe and free. But parts of this Bill will facilitate discrimination and undermine protest, which is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy. We should all be able to stand up for what we believe in, yet these proposals would give the police yet more powers to clamp down on protest. They risk stifling dissent and making it harder for us to hold the powerful to account.

“If enacted, these proposals would expose already marginalised communities to profiling and disproportionate police powers through the expansion of stop and search, and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities may face increased police enforcement through the criminalisation of trespass.

“While we are still in the grip of a pandemic that has changed all our lives and handed enormous powers to the Government, it is shocking that this executive has chosen now to launch such a broad assault on our rights under the guise of safer communities.

“We must reject the politics of division that the Government is proposing through this Bill, and protect each other and our ability to stand up to power.”

* More information on the Bill here.

* Source: Liberty