What Does the UK Government’s Public Order Bill Really Mean?

The UK Prime Minister recently announced granting new powers to the country’s police force to address illegal protests. The Prime Minister expressed complete support for these measures, aiming to effectively manage the disruptions and damages caused by such demonstrations, which impact ordinary families. It is essential to explore the specifics of these new police powers in suppressing protests in the UK. What provisions are included in the British government’s public order bill? Moreover, it would be insightful to understand the current statistics on police brutality in the UK.

Passage of the Public Order Bill in the UK

On January 16, the British Prime Minister’s Office released a press statement and officially published an amendment to a bill to enhance police powers. The amendment pertains to the Public Order Bill, passed by Members of Parliament in October of the previous year. The primary objective of this bill is to broaden police authority to intervene in protests before they escalate into chaos proactively. However, it is essential to note that the legislation has faced considerable criticism. The recent revisions, derived from the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, seek to criminalise the act of chaining individuals to buildings by bolstering the powers of law enforcement agencies.


The illiberality of the English government’s public order bill

Attorney and human rights expert Adam Wagner tweeted about this: “The Public Order Bill is already deeply illiberal. Now the govt wants to make it even easier for police to prevent protest.” Wagner also noted that such new powers could complicate police operations by entangling them in disputes.


Sunak’s immense support for the UK police

During a meeting at the British Home Office, Suella Braverman and Chris Philp, who oversees police affairs, met senior officials from the UK police force. Rishi Sunak joined the meeting initially. The main focus of the discussion was the recent grant of new powers to the UK police for suppressing illegal demonstrations. Sunak expressed his commitment to providing the police with any necessary support and additional powers, stating, “I’ve assured them that whatever they require from the government, they will have in terms of new powers. We are already in the process of granting them some, and I fully endorse their utilisation.”

Following the meeting, the Prime Minister of the UK delivered a video speech from his office headquarters. He firmly believed that those who violate the law should face its full consequences. Sunak also emphasised his unwavering support for the police in their efforts to maintain law and order.


Sunak’s constructive meeting with UK police

According to BBC, UK police chiefs described their meeting as productive after their talks with the Prime Minister of this country. BJ Harrington, one of the senior chiefs of the UK police, stated that this police force is not anti-protest but anti-crime. The UK police statement said: “Police are committed to responding quickly and effectively to activists who deliberately disrupt people’s lives through dangerous, reckless, and criminal acts.”


Public dissatisfaction with Rishi Sunak’s government policies

Amid a surge of strikes and rallies in British cities, notably London, Rishi Sunak put forth his new proposals. These demonstrations, often referred to as a new “winter of discontent,” witness the participation of public sector workers and environmental activists protesting and expressing their opposition. Against this backdrop, the government has announced its policy initiatives to address the concerns being raised by the demonstrators.


Prohibition of legal objections in the UK


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed his strong disapproval of a self-centred minority that disrupts the lives of others by participating in illegal protests. Sunak’s remarks followed a meeting between him, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and senior officials from the UK police force, where they discussed the tactics employed by certain pro-environment demonstrators, including the Leave the Oil movement. While the British conservative government remains committed to the freedom of protest, it has vehemently criticised what it perceives as extreme forms of protest.


Severe restrictions on criticism in the UK

There are concerns among critics who caution against growing authoritarian tendencies within the country, fearing that stricter legislation may compromise the right to protest. The British government has already imposed significant restrictions on protesters, exemplified by granting police officers the authority to apprehend individuals they deem potentially disruptive to public order. The exercise of this power was first witnessed during the coronation of King Charles III, which attracted substantial criticism toward the police forces involved.


Heavy punishment for protesters in the UK

The British government no longer wants to tolerate what it considers to be extreme forms of protest. Currently, up to three years in prison are threatened for those who stroll or block traffic during demonstrations. UK police can now crack down on unwanted protests, for example, by environmental activists, according to the ruling. A controversial law has been implemented that prohibits the methods used by demonstrators in this type of protest, such as slow walking, and there is a risk of going to jail for protesters. Anyone who builds a tunnel or stays there to cause severe disruption will be sentenced to a maximum of three years and up to six months in jail for obstructing critical transportation facilities.


Criticism of UK police violence against protesters

Another critical point that human rights groups and experts emphasise is that the extensive police power in the British legal system could allow officers to crack down on protesters and dissidents of the royal military. Another important point regarding the violent and insulting treatment of the British police against the protesters of the monarchy is the unlimited anti-protest power of the police. British police can claim that the protests are threatening by citing the laws of this country and using their freedom of action and extensive power against the protesters with this justification. Freedom of speech and human rights groups also described the policing of some officers against protesters as deeply troubling.


UK police welcomed the restriction of protests.

However, Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley backed the government’s plan, claiming that “Providing such clarity will create a clearer line for the police to enforce when protests impact upon others who simply wish to go about their lawful business.” But critics of the public order bill, who see this amendment as pouring gasoline on the fire, condemn it as a tool to suppress protesters.


The House of Lords is the last obstacle to the public order bill.

 In conclusion, it is noteworthy that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak aims to introduce a bill that would grant the police additional powers to curb what he refers to as disruptive public protests. Nevertheless, introducing such new powers might entangle the police in contentious situations. It is important to note that the precise details of the government’s proposed amendment have not yet been made public. For this bill to become legally binding, it must successfully navigate the final stage of parliamentary approval in the House of Lords.

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