AROUND PARLIAMENT (s132-138 SOCPA)
The report repeats the call for repeal of sections 132-138 of SOCPA which restrict protest around Parliament. However it also calls for additional police powers under s14 of the Public Order Act around Parliament and other 'alternative arrangements' to deal with noise and long-term protests etc.
The report suggests that a 'designated area' 'within 300 metres of the perimeter of the Palace of Westminster or Portcullis House', specified by the Secretary of State, would be acceptable even though this would extend well beyond Parliament Square and beyond Downing Street.
The Committee announced their intention to table amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill to prompt debate and 'bring forward the necessary reform' of SOCPA relating to protest around Parliament.
* Section 132-138 SOCPA should be repealed.
* Advance notice of protest around Parliament should not be a legal requirement.
* There should be development of 'clear' conditions under the Public Order Act 1986 to ensure access to Parliament.
* Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 should be amended to ensure access to Parliament and deal with 'security risks'.
* The Committee's proposed amendment to the Public Order Act which would allow a 'designated area' specified by the Secretary of State to be created under s14, under which conditions on public assemblies can be imposed. This 'designated area' could be 'within 300 metres of the perimeter of the Palace of Westminster or Portcullis House' - a smaller area than that currently permissible under SOCPA but extending well beyond Parliament Square and past Downing Street.
* Various authorities should develop 'alternative arrangements' to manage noise levels from protest in Parliament Square.
* There should be no limit on the duration of protests.
* Police should continue to be able to impose conditions on protest around Parliament relating to security.
* Police should to be able to impose conditions on protest 'to facilitate protest by others'.
* That the Greater London Authority work with the police. Westminster City Council and Parliamentary authorities in discussions about new byelaws relating to Parliament Square so that 'any new restrictions...are not disproportionate'.
* The Committee announced their intention to table amendments to the Policing And Crime Bill to prompt debate and 'bring forward the necessary reform' of SOCPA relating to protest around Parliament.
AT ‘DESIGNATED SITES’ AROUND MILITARY BASES ETC (S128 SOCPA)
The report suggests an amendment to s128 SOCPA relating to criminal trespass at designated sites which would 'permit the Home Secretary to designate sites on the grounds of national security only where it is necessary to do so.' While this may introduce a need for the designation of sites to be justified, the definition of 'national security' and 'necessary' remain unclear.
OTHER PROTEST SITUATIONS
* The Government should amend Section 5 of the Public Order Act, removing the reference to insulting words or behaviour 'so that it cannot be used inappropriately to suppress the right to free speech, by deleting the reference to language or behaviour that is merely "insulting."'
* Counter-terrorism powers should not be used against peaceful protestors and Government guidance on stop and search powers in Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 should make this clear.
* Government guidance relating to s76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 should address 'concerns about its improper use to prevent photographing or filming police'.
* The Government should consider 'the position of quasi-public spaces to ensure that the right to protest is preserved', given the 'increasing privatisation of ostensibly public space'.
* Legislation should be drafted more precisely to give 'greater clarity about how broad police powers are used'.
* Protestors should be able to make representations when an injunction is sought against them.
* 'Inconvenience or disruption alone are not sufficient reasons for preventing a protest from taking place, although they may be good reasons to reroute it or place other conditions upon it. Given the value of the right to protest, a certain amount of inconvenience or disruption needs to be tolerated'.
* There should be no requirement for prior notification of protests in the UK - it would be 'a disproportionate interference with the right to protest and is more likely to discourage some protestors from cooperating with the police than to encourage effective dialogue'.
* There is concern about 'the deployment of riot police can unnecessarily raise the temperature at protests.' The policy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland which 'has shown how fewer police can be deployed at protests, in normal uniform, apparently with success' should be considered by police forces in England and Wales.
* The police should get more human rights training.
* The Government should develop a quick and cost free system for resolving complaints and disputes in advance of protests taking place. 'Legal action where officers are in breach of their human rights obligations, whilst important, is not appropriate to deal with systemic problems nor a good basis from which to learn lessons for the future.'
* The police should adhere to media guidelines agreed with the NUJ to allow journalists 'to carry out their lawful business and report the way in which demonstrations are handled by the police without state interference'.
* Tasers should never be used 'against peaceful protestors.
Read the JCHR report: Demonstrating respect for rights? A human rights approach to policing protest
Read the Oral and Written Evidence