Yesterday I spoke during the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill debate. You can read the text of my speech here, or watch it below:
Like many of my constituents, I was shocked by the images that came out of Clapham Common over the weekend. There’s something very ugly about a group of women being manhandled, pushed to the ground, and pinned for mourning yet another victim of male violence against women.
The Home Secretary says this legislation will make us safer. But after the weekend I don’t feel safer.
The events of Saturday night show us the opposite of what the Home Secretary has concluded: far from the police not having enough powers, the sad truth is that the power they do have is already open to abuse.
That truth isn’t only demonstrated by the women who came to mourn and lay flowers over the weekend. It’s written in the headlines about the women who survived the horror of the Spy Cops scandal – the headlines about the black, Asian and minority ethnic people who are killed in police custody – the headlines about the Alfie Meadows and the Ian Tomlinsons who were struck down by police just for being in the presence of a demonstration.
This Bill is the latest in a trilogy which rather than safeguard our right to protest, grants even more powers to crack down on dissent. And rather than addressing the real problems in our courts – just look at the huge backlog of cases waiting to go to trial, many of which will be domestic abuse cases – the Government wants to hand out harsher punishments for damaging a statue, than for harassing a woman in the street.
So, I don’t feel safer. And there’s one group of people who will feel significantly less safe and less secure because of this Bill – the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. If the Government were serious about addressing the issue of unauthorised encampments, they’d tackle the real problem – the shortage of places where it’s permitted to stop and reside.
All this legislation will do is strip people of their homes, push them into the criminal justice system and criminalise the way of life of an already persecuted community.
What we needed today was a policing, crime, sentencing and courts Bill that dealt with the real problems in the criminal justice system, respecting our rights to protest and to live our lives how we choose. That’s what makes people safer. What we got was the opposite.