In another step to make the population comply with the police state, the government are pushing through more stealth legislation to give local councils the power to ban peaceful protests on the flimsiest of grounds.
In the government’s Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, there is a loosely worded section which gives local authorities the power to issue ‘Public Spaces Protection Orders’.
The orders can be used by councils, following consultation with police, to restrict any activity deemed to have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality” – which effectively means that any peaceful activity could be banned because it has the potential to disrupt the operation of commercial and government interests.
The legislation allows local authorities to issue orders for up to three years to “all persons or only to persons in specified categories”, meaning that campaigning organisations could receive a blanket ban on all protesting in an area within the local authority’s area. For example, a trade union could be issued with an order preventing them from engaging in any protest for three years within a town, district, or county.
Penalties for ignoring an order would include on-the-spot fines, which would be collected by representatives of the council, who could be private security companies operating on commission, and possibly a prison sentence.
The government’s public reason for the legislation is to simplify the process for councils to tackle anti-social behaviour, but with the legislation being so loosely worded it has caused serious concern among campaigning groups.
Josie Appleton, the convener of the civil-liberties group the Manifesto Club, told the Independent “This Bill has shockingly open-ended powers within it that could allow councils to ban everything from protests, to outdoor public meetings, to children’s skateboarding. The list is endless.
“The Home Office say they don’t think councils will use the law in this way, but this is not good enough. They should not be handing councils open-ended powers in the first place.
“While people will have the right to appeal, the processes involved are so expensive and complex that they will be beyond the reach of most protest groups.”
Isabella Sankey, the policy director for Liberty, said: “These next-generation antisocial-behaviour powers are bigger and badder than ever.
“Dangerously broad powers granted to regulate the ‘quality of life’ of the community will allow local authorities effectively to shut down activity in public places. Just like stop-and-search without suspicion, the collateral damage will be peaceful protest and other basic rights and freedoms.”
Even the Ramblers Association has publically expressed concerns about the legislation. Janet Davis, the senior policy officer at the Ramblers Association, told the Independent she was worried that the orders could be applied to areas traditionally used for leisure and recreation.
“They could be used on wide-open areas, they could be used on commons, any land to which the public has access,” she said.
Not surprisingly, the government has kept the attempt to introduce this legislation very low key. They don’t want people looking too closely at it, or the public realising the full impact on their liberty as the police state is slowly built up without them noticing too much.
These are the kind of tactics we expect from the government as they have demonstrated time and again that they are only interested in their own agenda.
The fact is that there is already adequate legislation in place to tackle the same problems the proposed legislation is allegedly meant to tackle. There never was a need for the new bill to be introduced, other than to allow the government to make changes to introduce their stealth legislation.
You certainly won’t hear about the full impact of the legislation through the BBC or other mainstream television news channels.
This is (yet) another demonstration of how manipulative and self-serving the government is, and that they can’t be trusted to act in the public interest – it is that plain and simple. The legislation will remove another avenue through which the public are able to challenge government policies and actions. They tried (and are still trying) to control every area of free speech as was demonstrated when they tried to introduce the Data Communications Bill again.
So if you want to live in a police state where you will have no say then do nothing. Otherwise – do something. Make your voice heard.