The Government have recently introduced a new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. I have a number of grave concerns about this Bill, in particular:

  • It introduces draconian measures relating to free expression and the right to protest, by imposing restrictions on the timing, location and size of protest.
  • It gives new powers to tackle “unauthorised encampments” which will further criminalise the way of the life of already marginalised Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
  • Its sentencing reforms would increase sentence lengths, introducing mandatory life sentencing for children, restricting reviews on minimum terms for sentences, and making those who vandalise statues liable for up to 10 years in prison. 

Here is a longer summary of the Bill and here are some of the concerns raised.  

The Joint Committee on Human Rights is seeking evidence from the public ahead of the Bill coming back to Parliament and I want to make sure as many people as possible are involved in this consultation. 

Submitting evidence to an inquiry can be daunting, and as a result the public are often locked out of inquiries like these. So I have written some instructions below and drafted a template response which you can edit and submit, to hopefully make it easier for everyone to have their say. 

How to submit evidence

  • You can submit evidence through the online portal here
  • There is a template submission below, but please feel free to write your own submission or make changes to the below template to make it more personal. Here are some useful sources: 
  • Submissions must be a maximum of 1,500 words.
  • You must put your evidence in a Word, ODT or RTF document and make sure the file is no more than 25MB in size.
  • You must not send material that has already been published or include logos in your submission
  • Please note that your evidence will probably be published on the internet along with your name, and it can’t be removed after it’s been published. If you’d like your evidence to be anonymous or confidential, please tick the box you see on the submission form. The Committee has the power to decide whether evidence is kept anonymous or confidential, but will usually be able to do what you’ve asked for. 

Template Letter

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am writing to submit my views on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as part of the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry. I have laid out my main concerns with this bill below: 

  1. Privacy: Chapter 3 of Part 2 of the Bill gives police powers to extract information from electronic devices. I am concerned that this does not comply with the right to respect for private life, granted under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and fails to provide sufficient safeguards to ensure that police officers and others do not simply extract all the data that is available on the device. These new powers would provide authority to immigration officers to collect devices as ‘authorised persons’, enabling immigration officers to gather and analyse devices from asylum seekers. I am also concerned that the bill’s proposal to introduce ‘electronic whereabouts monitoring requirements’ into youth rehabilitation orders and the introduction of Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) will further undermine the individual’s right to respect for privacy.
  2. Protest: The Bill proposes changes to law governing public assemblies, processions and protests—so that “serious annoyance” will carry up to 10 years in jail. I am concerned that these wide reaching and broad-brush definitions are ripe for misinterpretation and misuse and will undermine the right to peaceful assembly and free expression, guaranteed by Article 10 and 11 of the ECHR. 
  3. Gypsy, Roma and Travellers (GRT): I am also extremely concerned about the effect of the bill on already marginalised communities. The Bill proposes new powers for police to target “unauthorised encampments” which means the already discriminated against GRT communities will have their way of life further criminalised and live under increased threat of having their homes confiscated. 
  4. Liberty: I believe that the changes to sentencing proposed in the bill, including extending whole life orders, introducing mandatory life sentences for children, restricting reviews for the minimum term for sentences and imposing curfews in community sentences, severely impinge our right to liberty. 

In light of the above, I believe that this Bill presents a very real threat to our human rights. It is therefore vital that the Joint Committee for Human Rights fully consider the serious implications of the Bill in its current form.

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