Saturday, 4 June 2022

Public Order - yet another Bill ...

Protesters at Trooping Colour

It is interesting to note that there is (yet another) Public Order Bill before Parliament - Public Order Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament.

This latest Bill is in 3 parts. Part 1 deals with public order and creates offences of "locking on" (e.g. to railings), going equipped for "locking on", obstruction of major transport works and interference with key national infrastructure. Part 2 deals with Serious Disruption Prevention Orders which it will be possible for the courts to make either upon conviction or otherwise than upon conviction. Part 2 also contains new stop and search powers including powers exercisable WITHOUT reasonable suspicion. Part 3 deals with matters such as extent and commencement.

The new Bill -

announced in the Queen's Speech - comes hard on the heels of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022

The 2022 Act is large - 14 Parts (extending over 209 sections) and 21 Schedules. I am not proposing to indulge in a full analysis of it on this blog. It would take several posts to do so and, I'm sure, that the attention of readers would soon disappear. It's there via the link and you can read it for yourselves.

Part 3 of the Act is concerned with Public Order and contains powers about imposing conditions on public processions and assemblies. 

Public Nuisance is the subject of Section 78.  Previous post - Law and Lawyers: Protest and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (1) ~ Public Nuisance (

In what is probably a welcome legal development, the antiquated Vagrancy Act 1834 (enacted in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars) is repealed. Not that its repeal will solve the problem of "vagrancy" but that's another story!

Part 4 of the Act deals with Unauthorised encampments.

In all of this we see government using Parliament to further restrict the ability to protest effectively no matter how egregious the wrong that is the subject of the protest. The latest Bill is perhaps just another step in a trend to tighten the law against protest which has continued since the Miner's Strike of 1984-5 which was followed by the Public Order Act 1986.

Of course it has to be recognised that some recent protests have resulted in both enormous disruption to the lives of individuals trying to get about their daily business peacefully and large costs to the public purse. An example is Law and Lawyers: Extinction rebellion protests - a Section 14 Order (

Some balance is necessary between the ability to protest and the need to keep vital services functioning properly. The question is whether the right balance has been achieved. 

The appearance, at least to me from my north of England vantage point, is that we have a government that seriously dislikes any challenge to what it perceives to be its authority. It dislikes challenge, even within Parliament, and certainly seems to detest challenge based on legal matters such as human rights. 

I therefore express doubts about whether the present government is really all that interested in achieving the necessary sensible balance.

4 June 2022

Update 17 June

Ministers creating ‘hostile environment’ for protesters, say MPs | Protest | The Guardian

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