Why I'm backing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill today
Today the House of Commons will consider amendments and vote on Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. I’ll be proudly backing it.
This vital piece of legislation will protect our emergency service personnel, introduce tougher sentences for the worst crimes, and stop the automatic early release for serious, violent, and sexual offenders.
I strongly believe this legislation will keep Orpington safe – and our entire country.
As your Member of Parliament, it’s only right that you know why I am backing legislation on your behalf and what it means. Amongst the many provisions of the Bill, here are the most notable changes:
The maximum sentence for assaults against emergency service workers doubled to two years.
Courts will be allowed to sentence criminals who desecrate war memorials, statues and monuments with up to ten years’ imprisonment.
Serious criminals will be kept in prison for longer before they can be conditionally released or apply for parole.
Judges will be allowed to consider jailing child murderers for their entire lives.
There are two areas of the Bill which have caused some controversy. However, I believe these are not only proportionate but desperately needed. Firstly, some – mainly Extinction Rebellion supporters - have expressed concern about the changes to protests. The Bill will grant the police more power to impose conditions on protests which intimidate, harass, or distress to bystanders. These new powers will enable officers to enforce a start and finish time, set noise limits and apply these rules to a demonstration by just one person.
A new offence will also be created for protesters who intentionally or recklessly cause public nuisance. This is designed to stop people occupying from public spaces, blocking bridges and roads or glueing themselves to buildings or public transport.
Ultimately, these new powers will not - as critics have suggested - remove people’s right to protest but will balance the rights of protestors and the rights of individuals to go about their daily business.
Everyone has a right to protest in this country. No one has a right to block a bridge, glue themselves to a train, or intimidate people in the streets. That’s not protesting. That’s occupation – and fundamentally undemocratic.
Secondly, concerns have been raised about the changes to police powers regarding unauthorised encampments. Despite these concerns, I can assure you that this Bill does not impact the rights of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
As we promised in our manifesto, we will tackle unauthorised encampments, which can create significant problems for local authorities and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby. They also often give an unfair, negative image of the vast majority of travellers who abide by the law.
The Bill will create a new criminal offence of residing in a vehicle on land without permission. In addition, it will grant the police the power to seize vehicles and prevent unauthorised encampments from returning within twelve months.
These changes will not affect ramblers or people exploring the countryside.
In order that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities can practice their way of life, Government support has helped provide 356 transit pitches. That’s 41 per cent more than 2010.
I strongly believe this Bill is fair, proportionate, and needed. And I applaud its aim to put criminals under pressure, not communities. That’s why I will be supporting it later today.