Policing bill voted through amid concerns over right to protest

The Bill aims to "restore confidence in the criminal justice system", but the conduct of officers at Saturday's Sarah Everard vigil has detractors worried. Credit: PA

A new law and order Bill has been passed in parliament, despite concerns that it was "rushed" and threatens the right to protest.

The Conservative's so-called 'policing bill' aims to "restore confidence in the criminal justice system", but the conduct of officers at Saturday's vigil for Sarah Everard has placed it under scrutiny.Clashes broke out between police and mourners at a vigil for the 33-year-old. Footage posted on social media shows police and mourners jostling near the Clapham Common bandstand, where the event was due to be held before it was cancelled due to Covid-19 safety concerns.

Labour attempted to block the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. In its motion, the party said it “rushes” changes to protest law and “fails” to take action to protect women.

It also labelled the Bill an “abusers’ charter”.

Before the vote, Conservative MP Huw Merriman said some MPs were criticising the police for using powers given to them in the Coronavirus Act - powers which many parliamentarians voted for.

Mr Merriman, who represents Bexhill and Battle, told the Commons: “There are 24 members of this House that can say that they objected to the Coronavirus Act extension in September which gave the police powers to act in the way that they did on Saturday evening.

“I do not think it reflects well on this House when we create powers for the police and then criticise them for using those powers."

Meanwhile, DUP MP Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) insisted the right to protest should be protected. He also suggested the way the legislation is drafted would “make a dictator blush”.“The loose and lazy way this legislation is drafted would make a dictator blush. Protests will be noisy, protests will disrupt and no matter how offensive we may find the issue at their heart, the right to protest should be protected.”

  • For more politics news and analysis, listen to the ITV News Calling Peston podcast