Sun, 30 Mar 2008

Right to protest in front of Parliament to be restored?

Authorised demonstration in Parliament Square The Governance of Britain – Analysis of Consultations summarises the responses it received to the Managing Protest around Parliament consultation as follows:

11. The Government received 512 responses during the 12 week consultation period. Representations were received from 25 campaign groups, from six MPs and two Peers, from a number of other interested stakeholders including the Metropolitan Police Service, the Greater London Authority,Westminster City Council and the Law Society of Scotland. However, most responses – over 90 percent – were received from members of the public.

12. The vast majority of responses – over 95 percent – either explicitly or implicitly called for the straight repeal of sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCAP), rejecting arguments that a distinct framework for managing protest around Parliament could be justified on security grounds, or on grounds that the business of Parliament needed special protection, or by a need to safeguard wider public enjoyment of the space.

13. There was a clear and strongly articulated view that sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, and in particular the requirement to notify the police in advance, have restricted and stifled spontaneous protest in the area around Parliament.There was also a clear view expressed by members of the public that the area around Parliament is special in that it is the focus of political protest and that nowhere is the right to protest and voice one’s views more important than at the seat of Parliament itself.

More mass lone demonstrations in one day than in 18 months On an unrelated news The Governance of Britain – Draft Constitutional Reform Bill starts with the repeal of the sections 132 to 138 of SOCPA (this act is more commonly abbreviated to SOCPA than SOCAP):



1 Repeal of sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

(1) Omit sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c.15) (which regulates demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament)

(2) In the Table in section 175(3) of that Act (transitional provision relating to offences) omit the entries relating to section 136.

(3) In paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 to the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 (c.40) (which is about consents for the operation of loudspeakers) omit "or of section 137(1) of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005".

(4) Omit paragraph 64 of Schedule 6 to the Serious Crime Act 2007 (c.27)

This intention is welcomed, but at this stage this is just a draft bill which may be changed and will take time to come into force. If this happens then we'll return to the status quo before these sections came into force – minus all the arrests of peaceful protesters in the designated zone and the time wasted by protesters and the Police alike in dealing with the required authorisations.

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