Last weekend saw an surge of protests across the UK over the government at Westminster’s controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Activists took to the streets of cities including Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, Cardiff, Sheffield, and Plymouth to take a stand against the Bill’s proposed restrictions on the right to protest.
But what is the Police and Crime Bill? And what is the Kill the Bill movement about?
What is the Police and Crime Bill?
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (sometimes shortened to the Police and Crime Bill or Policing Bill) is a proposed new law which would bring major changes to criminal justice in England and Wales.
Among the changes, it would give police new powers to restrict or even ban demonstrations – including setting “maximum noise levels” on static protests deemed to cause “serious unease” to others.
A new public nuisance offence could see a person sentenced up to 10 years in prison for causing “serious annoyance”, distress, or damaging property or public statues.
What is Kill the Bill? Meaning explained
Kill the Bill is a movement which emerged in response to the Police and Crime Bill.
Campaigners say the Bill is an attack on freedom of speech and the fundamental human right to protest.
They also criticise the Bill's proposals on trespass law, which would change it from a civil to criminal offence.
This would seriously impact Gypsy and Traveller communities, allowing police to arrest them and confiscate their homes.
Kill the Bill calls the Policing Bill a “dangerous and unnecessary piece of legislation” that “endangers the rights and safety of every single one of us”.
They are calling for the Bill to be scrapped altogether.
What stage is the Policing Bill at? Will it become law?
The UK Government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords over its Police and Crime Bill on January 17.
Opposition peers voted against a number of measures, including plans for police to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion”.
They also voted against creating new offences for protesters using “locking on” tactics and interfering with infrastructure – including blocking major roads, airports, railways, and printing presses. These measures have now been removed from the legislation.
Instead, peers voted for new amendments to the Bill, including making misogyny a hate crime.
Now the legislation will return to the House of Commons where it will be debated and voted on again.
It will pass between the two houses until an agreement is reached. Only then will it be able to become law.
Will the Police and Crime Bill affect people in Scotland?
Most of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will only apply to England and Wales.
However, some of the less controversial aspects of it will be relevant to Scotland.
This includes changes to road traffic sentencing, terrorist offences, and sexual offence legislation.