New Policing Bill: Farewell Freedoms?

Aidan Lomas, Opinions & Features Editor

I, like many people, believe in two things: Firstly, that the healthiest democracy is an informed one. Secondly, that the safest citizenry are free ones. However, it does appear that the Government does not agree. It would seem that, following a democratic election, the Johnson Administration and the Metropolitan Police consider these whimsical old ideals of freedom, justice and Human Rights to be mere footnotes in soon-to-be forgotten  history; the future is draconian, Etonian and moronic.

Backlash: A ‘Kill The Bill’ demo, made up predominantly of young people, went through Bristol City Centre on Sunday, 21st March, to protest against the Government’s introduction of the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill. Although largely peaceful, fringes of the protest broke away and attacked the police officers, stations and vehicles with pertrol bombs and masonry. The proposed measures, within the bill, entail controversial aspects including the Police being given wide and vague discretion to regulate protests deemed to be rowdy. Human rights groups have deemed the bill to be an attack on individual liberties and the established law – namely the Human Rights Act. The bill, if passed, will increase prison sentencing terms for serious criminal offenders. PD. Phil Noble/Reuters

From William Gladstone and Emmeline Pankhurst to Paul Stephenson and Keir Hardie, the UK’s history is full of democratic reformers who have gone on to inspire reform throughout the world. Boris Johnson’s government will not find their way into that list. Instead, they’ll join the lines of Britain’s worst figures like Oswald Moseley, Oliver Cromwell and the ‘dreaded’ Katie Hopkins. The most frustrating part about this whole debacle is that, withholding the Bullshit element, the Bill is actually very proactive in preventing and deterring crime. It’s just a shame that the Government is so inept that they would add infringements of human rights to it as well. It’s the legislative equivalent of baking a cake and then spitting on relentlessly; the whole thing’s ruined despite its enticing start.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is an attempt by the British Government — the same government that called the EU an undemocratic institution and the same government that formally condemned the Capitol Riots earlier this year as attacks on democracy— to impede upon the HUMAN RIGHTS of their citizens.

At a time when women across the UK are grieving the murder of Sarah Everard and when race-relations in the UK are being tested harder than a pre-pandemic GCSE student, the Johnson Administration has introduced a bill granting draconian powers to the Police. It is not the empowerment of women’s safety against male predatory aggression nor the protection of minorities against racial discrimination; it’s the protection of romanticised views that fair old Blighty is a utopian land. Spoiler: It’s really not.

I must admit, when it comes to the Justice system of the United Kingdom, I will be first in line to say that some stricter laws need bringing in. To think that the bankers and wanke*s that ignited the 2008 Financial Crisis are still roaming the streets is something which just saddens me. Just remember, if you ever see a BMW being driven by a smug man wearing sunglasses and an earpiece, you have a 1 in 2 chance of having been driven up the arse of by either a banker or a wanker. I advise you steer clear of their vehicle as your pensions, or confidence in the banks, may be stolen.

But was I right? It would seem not. It turns out the real lowest of lows we can steep to in this county would be when a democratically elected government tries to legitimately introduce a rights-undermining bill into law. At present, the law of the land allows for the Police to place restrictions on protests which pose a genuine threat to those around it. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Whilst I advocate to the highest degree that a citizen’s primary right is that of protest, I also recognise that their protests should not threaten the safety of those not involved and in the surrounding area.

Scenes from the violent disorder following a ‘Kill The Bill’ demo in Bristol, on Sunday 21st March. A Police Transit van alight with flames. BBC

This Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill — let’s call it the Bullsh*t Bill to save time — allows Police to impose start & finish times and to set noise limits to protests. That’s right, not only do you need Dame Cressida Dick’s approval, but you have to make sure you don’t make too much noise; you know, just in case someone hears you? It’s an utter disgrace and must surely be the final nail in the coffin of this government. I was getting bored of elections during the Brexit years, but maybe one more is a good idea?

The Government, and I cannot stress this enough, is trying to introduce a law taking away your rights to protest in a means that works. Not only are they trying to take away your rights to protest, but they thought you’d be stupid enough not to notice since it was hidden deep within the 300 page document. So much for repairing confidence in politics, eh? Oh, and one other thing!

Don’t think about toppling any statues of slave traders or Indian-haters because that’ll get you locked up for up to ten years. The exact length of a statue-shaming protester’s time in prison will of course vary; it’s all dependent on just how idolised the statue’s subject is by the Prime Minster. Now that I think of it, the Bullshit Bill might just be the start of an excellent drinking game: 1 shot for a slave trader, 2 shots for an upper-class, elitist man who paid for a school somewhere, and the whole bottle if it’s a former (Conservative) Prime Minister.

Protests are not meant to be convenient for anyone. That’s the whole point. We don’t protest against the Government because they are doing something right. We don’t protest a law which enshrines our rights. We don’t protest an economic-industrial model that’s preserving the planet. We protest to show our leaders we no longer consent to the means through which they are governing. We protest to exercise our right to be heard by the people we elected. A democracy is not a fluid state; it doesn’t come and go every five years so that a government can take office. A democracy is a constant — it is an eternity. Our country is not a perfect democracy.

Though we have an unelected head of state, a legislature containing 800 unelected lawmakers and a quiet class system that makes Downton Abbey look like a Karl Marx biopic, we have our civil rights. Since the first Hanoverian King took to the throne in 1714, the people of these islands have enjoyed the privilege to mock our leaders and criticise their actions. Little did we know it would be the Etonian Jester who took this privilege away.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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