Scuffles erupted outside Parliament last night as ‘Kill the Bill’ protesters clashed with police while the House of Lords debated the controversial legislation.
Officers were seen pushing back demonstrators who approached their lines in angry scenes. Another video posted on Twitter showed protesters swarming a policewoman who had fallen onto the ground.
One man, 27, was arrested for assaulting police after they moved in to turn off the sound system he had set up in contravention of a Westminster by-law.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will see new powers given to the police and Home Secretary to deal with protests that are deemed to have caused ‘serious unease, alarm or distress’, including banning protests that are ‘too noisy’.
It will also raise the maximum sentence for defacing statues to 10 years, while amendments include allowing officers to stop and search anyone at a protest ‘without suspicion’.
Anyone an officer ‘reasonably believes’ may ‘lock on’ or obstruct major transport works could be stopped after the tactic was widely adopted by Extinction Rebellion activists.
Campaigners believe such clauses would have made the Suffragettes protests illegal given they regularly mounted disruptive stunts, including chaining themselves to railings.
Officers were seen pushing back demonstrators who approached their lines in angry scenes at last night’s Kill the Bill protest. Another video posted on Twitter showed protesters swarming a policewoman who had fallen onto the ground
A police officer tries to stop a protester from filming his badge number during a Kill the Bill protest outside the House of Commons last night
Demonstrators carried signs with slogans including ‘Priti annoying yourself actually’, a reference to Home Secretary Priti Patel
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will see new powers given to the police and Home Secretary to deal with protests that are deemed to have caused ‘serious unease, alarm or distress’. Pic: A sign at last night’s protest
Last night protesters carried banners with slogans including ‘Priti annoying yourself actually’ and ‘It’s beginning to look like a police state’.
One group was pictured wearing orange prison costumes with a black hood over their heads.
Protests chanted ‘who do you protect?’ and ‘who do you serve?’ at officers during clashes.
It came as ministers faced down opposition in the Lords to an amendment to the bill which will impose a mandatory life sentence for criminals who kill emergency workers.
During the evening session, peers supported the government-backed amendment, known as ‘Harper’s Law’, 211 to 82, a majority of 129.
It followed a two-year campaign by Lissie Harper, the wife of police officer Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty while answering a late-night burglary call.
Mrs Harper, 30, had been ‘outraged’ at the sentences handed to the three teenagers responsible for her husband’s death.
Known as ‘Harper’s Law’, the proposed tougher penalty was introduced by ministers as an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, at report stage in the upper chamber.
However, the move faced a barrage of criticism when presented in the Lords and led to an unusual, albeit failed bid to adjourn the House to allow for behind-the-scenes discussions on the measure.
Justice minister Lord Wolfson of Tredegar told the chamber he had not been contacted by any peer about the amendment ahead of the debate.
Several clauses in the bill – including the right to ban protests for being ‘too noisy’ – have led to claims it tramples on civil liberties
One group outside Parliament last night was pictured wearing orange prison costumes with a black hood over their heads
Protestors playing music during the ‘Kill the Bill’ protest, which happened at the same time the Lords were debating the legislation
Proposing the law change, he said a court would be able to impose a different sentence to life in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
He said: ‘While thankfully emergency workers are not often killed on duty, these workers are required to put themselves at particular risk when carrying out their duties and protecting the public.’
But Tory former minister Viscount Hailsham, who previously sat in the Commons as Douglas Hogg, expressed ‘grave concerns’ about the move.
He said: ‘All of us will have the greatest sympathy for PC Harper’s wife and his family, however we should be very cautious about legislating as a consequence of a single case, or even of a number of cases, however, distressing they may be.’
Pointing out manslaughter covered a wide range of culpability and warning against limiting the discretion of the trial judge, he added: ‘I am profoundly uncomfortable with this new clause and I would like to think that it will not pass.’
During the evening session – which took place at the same time as the Kill the Bill protest (pictured) peers supported the government-backed amendment, known as ‘Harper’s Law’, 211 to 82, a majority of 129.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside Parliament after assembling at around 5pm. There have been similar protests in other British cities
Former High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss shared the ‘serious concerns’ raised and told the Government: ‘They may just have strayed too far into imposing upon the judiciary what in my view is not necessary.’
Former Brexit Party MEP and non-affiliated peer Baroness Fox of Buckley said: ‘This feels so much like law made by press release and law made to virtue signal.’
Leading lawyer and independent crossbencher Lord Pannick said: ‘To require a life sentence is pure deception because we all know that life sentences are not life sentences.’
Liberal Democrat QC Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames said: ‘We are unhappy with the proposal that such a sentence should be mandatory unless a judge can find exceptional circumstances.’
The sentence lasts for the rest of a person’s life and means they can be sent back to prison if they commit another offence upon release from custody after serving at least the minimum sentence imposed by the courts.
A demonstrator in London holds a sign saying ‘keep your Priti hands off my rights’ at the protest by Parliament yesterday
A vigil was held last night on Bristol’s College Green by people opposed to the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill