Ministers were facing mounting fury today over a draconian new anti-protest law that would hand police greater powers to break up events like the Sarah Everardvigil.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will allow officers to intervene in events that are deemed to have caused ‘serious unease, alarm or distress’.
The new legislation, introduced in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests that swept the UK last summer, has also been attacked for bringing in jail terms for defacing statues that are on a par with those given to rapists and other sexual offenders.
Should the bill become law, defacing monuments will be punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The starting point for rape sentences is currently five years, rising to a life sentence for the most serious.
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins defended the bill today, insisting that it was designed to target ‘very, very disruptive protests’.
But critics said that it would still give police forces far stronger powers than they currently possess to break up peaceful gatherings.
Labour has said it will vote against the bill when it receives its second reading tomorrow.
Read more: Ministers under fire over planned new anti-protests law that would allow police to intervene in any protest causing ‘serious unease’ and jail statue defacers for longer than rapists in the wake of fury at officers’ handling of the Sarah Everard vigil