Possible answers from anti-war group Justice Not Vengeance.
The government is consulting the public on the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA).
Anti-war group Justice Not Vengeance urges everyone opposed to the restrictions on protest to take part in the SOCPA consultation - at least so that the Government cannot claim the public is unconcerned about the matter.
We give some possible sample responses below.
The deadline for responding is 17 January 2008.
Please send in your response to the consultation as soon as possible to:
The entire consultation document can be found at:
SAMPLE RESPONSES PREPARED BY JUSTICE NOT VENGEANCE
The consultation document poses eight questions to be consulted on:
Public Protest – the Legislation Framework
Q1: The Government believes peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society, and that the police should have powers to manage public assemblies and processions to respond to the potential for disorder. Should the powers generally in relation to marches and assemblies be the same?
ANSWER1: Marches and assemblies are indeed vital parts of a democratic society, and there should be a positive right to protest. Three existing police powers should certainly be removed: the power to ban marches, the power to censor placards and banners, and the ban (around Parliament) on protests which have not received prior police authorisation - a ban which contravenes the right to freedom of assembly under the European Convention on Human Rights. The removal of unnecessary and oppressive police powers may indeed lead to police powers becoming more similar in relation to marches and assemblies, but the focus should be on enhancing freedom and respecting rights, rather than tidying up legislation.
Q2. Do you agree that the conditions that can be imposed on assemblies and marches should be harmonised?
ANSWER2: See above.
Protest in the vicinity of Parliament
Q3. Is special provision needed for static demonstrations and marches around Parliament and if so what?
ANSWER3: As noted above, the ban on protest without police authorisation (infringing the right to assembly under the European Convention on Human Rights) is unacceptable in a democracy. No special policing provisions are required for protests around Parliament.
Q4. Are there any other considerations the Government should take into account?
ANSWER4: Parliament is rightly the focus for national political protests, and policing of protests around Parliament should demonstrate the high value this society places on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.
Encouraging and managing the Right to Protest
Q5: Do you have views on the model that should apply for managing demonstrations around Parliament?
ANSWER5:The policing model embodied in sections 132-138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act has proved itself to be irrational, indiscriminate, inconsistent, irrelevant to the needs of security, and, in short, a threat to freedom. It must be repealed. We need a policing model based on fundamental human rights.
Q6: Do you consider that a prior notification scheme should apply to static demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament? Should any scheme only apply to static demonstrations over a certain size? And if so, what size of demonstration?
ANSWER6:Whether or not there is a prior notification scheme, there should be no system requiring prior authorisation from the police, as under sections 132-138 of SOCPA. The government has consistently confused the issue of notification with the issue of prior authorisation. The former is merely a matter of informing the police
of one's plans; the latter requires the permission of the police before one can make firm plans. The latter is completely unacceptable in a democratic society.
Q7: Do you agree that conditions in order to prevent a security risk or hindrance to the operation of Parliament should remain in relation to demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament?
ANSWER7: None of the conditions imposed under section 132-138 of SOCPA are capable of preventing terrorist attacks in the vicinity of Parliament, or of deterring hindrances to the operation of Parliament. They are little more than tools for intimidating and controlling the organisers of political protests around Parliament.
Q8: Do you have a view on the area around Parliament that any distinct provisions on the right to protest should apply to?
ANSWER8: There is no particular area around Parliament requiring special police powers, special restrictions on the right to protest or special requirements for prior authorisation of demonstrations.
There are more detailed comments on the consultation document on
www.repeal-socpa.info This website has details about the SOCPA
legislation and how it passed onto the statute books with links to all
relevant documents and debates. It also has a list of further links
for information on what has happened since SOCPA came into force and
on campaigning against SOCPA.