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Public Order Bill

Volume 827: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2023

Report (2nd Day)

Relevant documents: 17th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee

Clause 10: Powers to stop and search on suspicion

Amendment 46

Moved by

46: Leave out Clause 10

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 46 in my name and to speak to Amendment 47, to which I have added my name. Amendment 46 would remove Clause 10 from the Bill; I am grateful for the support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Meacher, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who have signed this amendment. Amendment 47 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, to which I have added my name, would remove Clause 11 from the Bill. These clauses give the police new powers to stop and search for an article made, adapted or intended

“for use in the course of, or in connection with”

protest-related offences, such as highway obstruction, causing a public nuisance and offences under the Bill —Clause 10 based on suspicion and Clause 11 without suspicion—if a police officer of or above the rank of inspector authorises it in a particular place for a specified period. This can be done if the officer “reasonably believes” that people in the area are carrying prohibited objects.

These are a significant expansion of police powers at a time when confidence in the police is waning and on a day when another police officer has been given multiple life sentences for, among other things, abusing his authority. There is potentially an endless list of objects that could be made, adapted, or intended

“for use in the course of or in connection with”

protest offences. Coupled with the power to stop and search without suspicion, this could result in many innocent people being stopped, searched and potentially arrested for being in possession of commonplace objects. If a protest takes place in central London, for example, shoppers in Regent Street and Oxford Street could potentially be stopped, searched and arrested for possessing household objects that they had just bought in John Lewis.

Stop and search is a highly intrusive and potentially damaging tool if misused by the police. The fact that you are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are white where the police require reasonable suspicion, and 14 times more likely where the police do not require reasonable suspicion, presents a prima facie case that the police are misusing these powers.

As a commander in the Metropolitan Police Service in July 2000, I presented a paper to my senior colleagues entitled “It is Time to Face the Realities of Stop and Search”. It attempted to demolish established explanations, provide an analysis of why in reality disproportionality was happening and set out steps that needed to be taken to ensure that stop and search was more accurately targeted. That was almost 23 years ago, at a time when disproportionality in stop and search with suspicion was running at eight times; it is now seven times.

A Joint Committee on Human Rights report of November 2020 stated that 25% of black voters in Great Britain were not registered to vote compared with an average of 17% across the population. Even more black people are likely to be excluded as a result of the new requirement to produce photographic identification at polling stations before you can vote. Black people are therefore likely to have less confidence in the electoral process, making protest more important to them as a way of making their voices heard. The same report cites the fact that 85% of black people are not confident that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police.

Put the two things together, and add the seven to 14 times disproportionality in stop and search, and you create a situation where the powers in Clauses 10 and 11 are likely to have a significant chilling effect on black and other visible minority people’s participation in protest. Not only is that reprehensible in itself but it is likely to increase the chance of serious violence as significant numbers conclude that violent protest is the only alternative means that they have of getting their views taken into account.

The only difference between Clauses 10 and 11 is the degree to which black and other visible-minority people will be deterred from participating in legitimate, peaceful protest. As the JCHR highlights, stop and search without suspicion has been available in the past only to combat terrorism—but was subsequently repealed because of police misuse—and serious violence. The JCHR said:

“It is surprising and concerning that the bill would introduce similar powers to deal not with serious offences punishable with very lengthy prison terms, but with the possibility of non-violent offences relating to protest, most of which cover conduct that is not even currently criminal.”

Even the Police Federation has concerns. Commenting on serious violence prevention orders, another expansion of stop and search without suspicion, a representative said:

“I imagine we would be deeply concerned about moving away from a form of stop and search that is not rooted in ‘Reasonable Grounds’. We could easily make a case that this leaves officers vulnerable to complaint, ‘post stop’, in an area which is already supercharged as an issue in many communities. Reasonable Grounds has a firm legal basis, is tried and tested, and therefore affords reassurance to our colleagues engaged in these stops.”

A previous Home Secretary asked HMICFRS to do a report on policing protests, page 109 of which says:

“Arguing against the proposal for a new stop and search power … another officer stated that ‘a little inconvenience is more acceptable than a police state’. We agree with this sentiment.”

Neither of these clauses should be part of the Bill. Depending on the support from other parts of the House, I may wish to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 46.

My Lords, this House is wonderful. Your Lordships have heard from a former police officer exactly what the police think of this and how they will handle, or possibly mishandle, it; we are shortly to hear from a lawyer who has experienced court cases about this sort of thing; and here your Lordships have the inveterate protester who has been arrested at a protest—a peaceful one—and it was extremely unpleasant.

Basically, Clauses 10 and 11 could fundamentally change the relationship between police and protesters. At the moment, you can take my word for it, that relationship is usually quite good until the police are told to move in and arrest us or whatever. Most of the time it consists of natural talking, with us explaining what we are there for and them saying what they had for breakfast and that sort of thing. It is not as disastrous a relationship at the moment as it will be if these clauses pass.

Clauses 10 and 11 will definitely be able to change that relationship for the worse. The police will be able to physically stop and search protesters with or without suspicion. I do not know how awful that sounds to noble Lords, but we feel that we are in a democracy. We are not in Iran or Russia; we are meant to be in a democracy where the police are not allowed to do things like that.

The Greens will vote against these as unjust laws, and I very much hope that the majority of noble Lords will follow suit. We all have a very vaunted idea of what Britain, our freedoms and democracy are all about. Here we are seeing a retraction of that and a diminution of our freedoms. I do not see how anyone can vote for that, even the Government Front Bench over there. I very much hope that this measure comes to a vote, and I will definitely vote against.

My Lords, I rise in support of my noble friend Lord Coaker and of my friend the distinguished former police officer and consistent advocate for rights and freedoms, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Stop and search is always a vexed question; even stop and search with reasonable suspicion is a vexed question. Of course, we must sometimes have it in a democracy, when people are reasonably suspected of various crimes, but even that becomes difficult because the threshold of reasonable suspicion is so low. Stop and search with reasonable suspicion in this Bill is problematic because certain offences in it, for example locking on, are so vague. Therefore, the range of items for which you could be stopped and searched on reasonable suspicion include, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out, things that you might pick up in John Lewis. They could include, for example, your mobile phone if that might be used in connection with the offence of locking on, and so on.

However, my priority is of course stop and search without suspicion. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has rightly pointed out, this has classically been for things such as terrorism and carrying weapons, rather than carrying things such as bicycle chains or mobile phones. Noble Lords will see the problem, which is particularly vexed in the context of the statistics, year on year, on the disproportionate numbers of black and brown people who will be subject to stop and search. Too many young people, boys in particular, have had their first experience of the state and the police service via a racially discriminatory stop and search, because that, unfortunately, has been the culture of policing for too long. We now add a new layer: that there will be lots of young women, not least today, who are particularly concerned about being stopped and searched by the police. That is not a happy thing to have to report, but I am afraid it is the reality.

When I was a young director of Liberty, the National Council for Civil Liberties, almost exactly 20 years ago, what was then Section 44 of the Terrorism Act allowed suspicionless stop and search where it was considered expedient to preventing acts of terrorism. When an arms fair took place in Docklands, large numbers of protesters, not terror suspects but protesters, were prevented from getting anywhere near that fair. They were hassled and detained, sometimes under Section 44 of that Act. Initially, the Metropolitan Police denied that they would ever use such powers in such a way, until questions were asked in Parliament, including in your Lordships’ House.

I sent a young lawyer from Liberty down to Docklands; he came back with large numbers of notices that had been issued to protesters and journalists, and predominantly to black and brown people, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. That was stop and search without suspicion. It took many years to take that case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where of course it was found that that power was just too broad. Suspicionless stop and search is very ripe for abuse, so I urge—

I have great sympathy for the noble Baroness’s argument and that advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but could she explain whether her objection to Clause 11 would be removed if subsection (7) were removed? It is in Clause 11(7) that what seems to be highly objectionable language occurs. It says that the constable

“may … make any search the constable thinks fit whether or not the constable has any grounds for suspecting that the person … is carrying a prohibited object”.

Supposing that that provision were not in the Bill—is the rest of Clause 11 objectionable?

This being not Committee but Report, the simplest and speediest answer that I can give to the noble Lord’s question is that Clause 11 is about suspicionless stop and search. He has picked out a particular subsection in the scheme, which would have been interesting in Committee. But the crucial thing is that Clause 11 is on stop and search without suspicion, not in the context even of terrorism, where it can come with greater justification—for example, when everybody is stopped and searched on their way into the Peers’ Entrance if they are not a Peer, or at the airport, where everybody is treated the same. But, by definition, that will not be the case in this scheme. This broad power will be used against young people all over London on the day of a protest. It will cause such strife and will poison relationships between the police service and the people it serves. For that reason, I urge all noble Lords to reject in particular this power to stop and search without suspicion even of the protest offences to which I object in the Bill.

I too speak in support of the amendments to remove Clauses 10 and 11, to which I have added my name. I declare my registered interests as the co-chair of the national police ethics committee and the chair of the Greater Manchester Police ethics advisory committee.

Stop and search can be an extremely useful tool in the police kit box, but, like many tools, it works far less well if it is overused or used for the wrong task. Eventually, it loses its efficacy entirely. I have several broken screwdrivers at home that bear witness to my own excesses in that regard, as well as to my very limited DIY skills. That is the danger we run when we extend stop and search powers in what, at times, feels like a knee-jerk reaction. They are simply the most obvious tool at the top of the box, whether they are appropriate or not. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, indicated, stop and search becomes, as it has in the past, so discredited that it reaches a point where, like my screwdrivers, it is counterproductive to use it, even in circumstances where it would be right and appropriate to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, reminded us, with some chilling figures, of its disproportionate use against certain sectors of society—young black men in particular —which damages confidence in policing not just with regard to stop and search but more generally. It is because I am passionate to support our police that I have such worries about anything that tends to diminish that public confidence. I have the greatest concerns where stop and search is undertaken without suspicion; such powers are even more at risk of simply being used against people who look wrong or are in the wrong place. They become especially prone to the unconscious bias that we might try to shake off but all to some extent carry within us. Should these amendments be pressed to a Division, they will have my full support and I hope that of your Lordships’ House.

I conclude by offering a modest proposal that goes beyond these clauses and the Bill. Could the Minister seek to gain a commitment from His Majesty’s Government to refrain from any extension of stop and search powers until such time as it is clear that the existing powers are being used properly and proportionately? Such a self-denying ordinance might lead to us have an intelligent conversation about how better to focus the use of stop and search. We could then look at whether there are circumstances in which those powers should be radically extended—but not before then.

My Lords, I have a question. I am imagining the circumstances with which the police are faced. In what circumstances would they proceed to stop and search if they had no suspicion? This seems a rather curious concept: to stop and search without suspicion means that you do not like the look of somebody—but, even then, you might have a suspicion. I just cannot conceive of the circumstances in which it would be proper to stop and search without suspicion.

I am also particularly concerned about the effect of this as far as the police are concerned. If people can be stopped and searched without suspicion, they themselves will probably not have a suspicion that they should be stopped and searched. Given the present circumstances, in which the police will have to work very hard to recover confidence, a woman stopped and searched without suspicion, and who has no suspicion of why she should be stopped and searched, will have a very considerable concern.

I am very grateful to my noble friend for giving way, but I am afraid that he is wrong about the absence of suspicion. When I was a special constable 40 years ago—I do not have the experience of the noble Lord opposite—I would stand in Trafalgar Square and get messages on the police radio such as, “Race code 3 or race code 9 coming down in a beaten-up Vauxhall: worth a stop.” That is not suspicion; that is arbitrary stopping.

My Lords, we are not focusing right now—nor should we be, in my view—on the issue of the lack of suspicion, although that is fundamental to Clause 11. Let us focus for a minute on Clause 10, which is about stops and searches without suspicion. Those stop and search powers were introduced for police, necessarily and very importantly, to enable them to stop people who they believe may be carrying a knife or another potentially dangerous weapon. I fully support those stop and search powers, but there is not a strong evidence base that the stop and search powers in that context are actually effective in preventing violent crime. So the idea of extending those powers to stop and search people in case they have a placard—a piece of paper—is completely and utterly disproportionate.

In a democratic society, it is utterly wrong to give disproportionate powers to our police to interfere with the fundamental right in our democracy to protest and to go out on the streets to express our opinions. If we forget the issue of suspicion, Clause 10 is utterly disproportionate, anti-democratic and unacceptable, and it will lead to further discordance between the police and lots of communities where we need to build community support for our police. It will have very detrimental effects on all sorts of people across our society. It is for these reasons that I, among others—I hope the whole House—would support withdrawing Clause 10 from the Bill.

What a good intervention that was; I much agree with it. Returning to the previous intervention, my noble friend can say what he likes; indeed, as a former special constable, he has no doubt told many how they should behave, but I am very ordinary and follow the law. It seems to me that “without suspicion” means that you do not have a suspicion, and, if you do not have a suspicion, I do not understand how you will decide that you will stop and search somebody.

Also, we should not underestimate the lack of confidence in the police among young people in particular —and, frankly, not only young black people. I have four law-abiding children who are now grown-up; all of them, as teenagers, had very good reason to be extremely suspicious of the way in which the Metropolitan Police behaved, even though all of them were law-abiding to a degree which some would find rather embarrassing. The truth is that the Metropolitan Police, in particular, has a very long way to go to recover confidence. I beg Members of this House to say that this is not the moment to introduce something for which I do not think there would ever be a moment to introduce it. In this moment, of all moments, it is the wrong thing to do; it is bad for the police, democracy and the rule of law.

My Lords, when my younger son was 18 or 19, he went around with black friends, and he was stopped three or four times a day with his black friends—but when he went out with his white friends, he was not stopped at all.

I am particularly concerned about Clause 11, and not only for what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has said. With Clause 11, you start with

“a police officer of or above the rank of inspector”.

You then go to

“a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent”.

But in Clauses 6 to 8, it is a constable. So a constable can—without authority from anyone above, as far as I can see under the clause—stop and search someone without suspicion. We should be very cautious about that.

My Lords, I broadly support the position of having stop and search with cause, although I know that some would not agree with that, but the Government have to think carefully about without-cause stop and search.

First, the point that the noble Lord, Lord Deben, made is intuitively a good one. Why would somebody stop? There is already a Section 60 power to stop and search without cause. It is a power to be used, for example, in a public park where a large amount of violence has already occurred, and an officer declares that there should be without-cause stop and search. The idea is to deter people from congregating in that place so that therefore they do not carry weapons or attend that place. It was put there for a limited time and for a limited geography. I will come back to why I think it still has problems, but there can be a justification for it. We used to have Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to protect places—particularly places such as this place —against people who might go there to attack them. That was why we had it—and Parliament has agreed to both those powers, and one is still extant.

The next point that I wanted to pick up was, on the definition, which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned, about whether something may be intended or adapted, that power also exists already in the definition of an offensive weapon. He made a good challenge, that therefore any ordinary object could be declared by an officer as helping with a protest—but I do not support that. We have had offensive weapon legislation since the 1950s, when people used to fight in the street with weapons, and the police have managed to make that definition work. If you carry a lock knife, it is clearly an offensive weapon; it is something that has been adapted to hurt people and that is the intention, that is something used to injure. But you can also have something with you that is intended for that purpose, even if it has an innocent explanation. So it is possible to make that work.

It is logical that you have a power with cause. If you decide that it is illegal to lock on or to tunnel, surely it has to be sensible to give the police a power to search for items that might do that. You could argue that, if it is going to be a big thing such as a spade to tunnel, you probably would not need to search too much—but you might need to search a vehicle or a place. The power to search is probably a logical consequence of deciding that some acts are going to be illegal.

However, I think that stop and search without cause has caused real problems. We still have it to some extent—and I speak as someone who has supported stop and search. When I was commissioner of the Met, when I took over in 2011—and people have acknowledged this—we drastically reduced stop and search, yet we reduced crime and arrested more people. The Section 60 stop and search, which I have already mentioned, we reduced by 90%, because it was causing more problems than it solved, in my view. Yet we still managed to arrest more people. The problem was that the Met had implemented throughout London, almost, so there were almost contiguous areas of Section 60, which is exactly what has been done around Section 44. The Section 44 counterterrorism legislation was intended to protect certain places, such as Parliament, but the Met put it in place throughout London.

The final thing that I wanted to come back to is that, particularly in London, stop and search without cause has such a bad reputation that it is probably not wise to extend it. One reason for that is that you now have many grandfathers and grandmothers who were affected by it in the 1960s, when it was called “sus”. In the 1980s and 1990s it was called Section 44, and now it is called Section 60. So I worry that the history of it in London may cause problems.

I go back to my first point: with with-cause stop and search, a logical consequence of causing certain things to be illegal is that it leads to a search for the items that might prove that that person either has that intent or intends to carry out certain acts. I speak as someone who has drastically reduced, not increased, stop and search. Particularly in the context of London, I caution the Government about extending without-cause stop and search.

My Lords, the Constitution Committee looked at the Bill with some care and was concerned about two provisions in Clause 11, not just one. The first was Clause 11(7), reference to which has already been made, but it was also concerned about the width of Clause 11(1)(b), which refers to persons who happen to be carrying prohibited objects in an area where the police suspect that these offences may be concerned. The point is that somebody may be carrying something within the area for a completely unrelated reason: they might just happen to be carrying a tool which could be thought to be adapted for tunnelling but was not intended for that purpose at all. The problem with this part of the clause is that it makes no reference at all to the reason why the person was carrying the object. The Constitution Committee thought that that was really stretching the matter too far. I have no problems with Clause 10, but there are these two problems with Clause 11.

My Lords, I support Amendments 46 and 47. I say a very loud, “Hear, hear” to the impassioned intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, which was spot on. I want to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Deben—on behalf of the Government, noble Lords will all be surprised to know. I thought I would quote what the Home Office Minister said the last time we dealt with this. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, explained why these new powers were necessary:

“it is not always possible for the police to form suspicions that certain individuals have particular items with them.”—[Official Report, 24/11/22; col. 978.]

That is true, but if that is the basis on which we are legislating—that it is not always possible to know if someone has suspicious items on them—then even though you do not know what the suspicions are, it will be all right to stop and search them. This seems to me to bring arbitrariness into the law in a way that can only be dangerous and will not make any logical sense to anybody outside this House.

Think of the consequences of some of this. The Government keep telling us that this is not about stopping the right to protest, and I will take them at face value on that. But let us consider someone who is not doing anything suspicious or carrying anything suspicious, but who is going on a demonstration. The police have the right to stop them, which means that what is suspicious is that they are going on a demonstration: it implies that. Going on a demonstration is pre-emptively seen as something dodgy, and I therefore become sceptical when the Government assure me that this will not have a chilling effect on people going on demonstrations.

I draw attention to a clause that has not been mentioned in these amendments but is related: Clause 14, which we will not need if we vote down Clauses 10 and 11. It contains a new offence of obstructing a police officer in a police-related suspicionless stop and search—for which, by the way, you can go to prison for 51 weeks or get a substantial fine. This clause indicates why Clause 10 and even Clause 11 are so dangerous: they will destroy any feasible community relations with the police.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, referred to the fact that many women might well be nervous if they are approached for a suspicionless stop and search. In all the briefings we have received, people have drawn attention to what happened, tragically, to Sarah Everard. If the police say they have no suspicions but they are stopping and searching you, you might say, as a woman, “Excuse me, I am not having that; I don’t want that to happen.” In fact, a lot of advice was given to young women that they should not just take it on face value if a police officer approaches them and says he wants to interfere with them in some way. But I want to use a more everyday example.

During lockdown, two care workers I know were walking home from work and sat down on a bench in a park to have a coffee. They worked together in a bubble, giving intimate care to people in the care home they worked in throughout the pandemic. They were approached by a number of police officers, who asked them if they lived in the same home. When they said no, the police officers said they were breaking their bubble—if noble Lords can remember those mad days, that is what it was like. They said, rather jokingly, “We’re taking people to the toilet and working intimately with them day in, day out.” The police officers became quite aggressive, threatening to arrest them and all sorts of things. We know those stories from lockdown. The reason I share this story is that the woman who told it to me had never been in trouble with the police before. She had never been approached by the police in that way; she is a law-abiding citizen who would, generally speaking, support the kind of law and order measures being brought in by this Government. However, because this police officer treated her as though she was behaving suspiciously for having her coffee on a bench, having done a long 12-hour shift in a care home, she said that she will never trust the police again. She argued back and they threatened to arrest her.

I fear that, if we give arbitrary powers to the police to use suspicionless stop and search, this Government might unintentionally and inadvertently build a new movement of people who do not trust the police and are not suspicionless but suspicious, with good reason in this instance, that the police are stopping them arbitrarily and that we are no longer a free society. We should all vote against Clauses 10 and 11 and, through that, destroy Clause 14 as well.

My Lords, I will carry through a bit further the citation from my noble friend Lady Fox of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, a much-respected Minister at the Home Office. More fully, she said that these powers were necessary:

“To ensure that the police have the ability to proactively prevent protesters causing harm … it is not always possible for the police to form suspicions that certain individuals have particular items with them.” —[Official Report, 24/11/21; cols. 977-78.]

That leaves me with a sense of nervousness, for the same reason as the noble Lord, Lord Debden, who unfortunately seems to have left the Chamber—

For the reasons that the noble Lord gave in his short speech, these statements by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who is greatly respected in this House, make me nervous.

My Lords, as we are on Report and not in Committee, I will make three short points.

First, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, is quite right to refer to our freedoms. I am sure that she intentionally used the plural and not the singular, because there are two freedoms here that we need to have regard to: the undoubted freedom to protest and demonstrate, and the freedom to go about your business unhindered and not be harassed. Ultimately, in a democratic society we seek to balance those two freedoms. We need to have regard to both sides of that coin.

Secondly, on the objects that could be caught by these clauses as drafted, a number of references have been made to John Lewis—I do not know whether its publicity department is grateful for that. It would be a misconception to proceed on the basis that, merely because an object has been or could be bought in John Lewis, it is therefore inoffensive and should not be caught by the criminal law. The last time I was in John Lewis, which I accept was some time ago, it sold very large knives, hammers, ropes and other implements. Let us put the John Lewis point to one side; it is a good old-fashioned red herring.

Thirdly, I turn to what the clause provides. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, focused on the powers of the constable in Clause 11(7). The important thing about Clause 11(7), I would suggest, is that you have to read the clause as a whole. Clause 11(1) starts with an officer at

“or above the rank of inspector”

believing, first, that some offences are going to be committed and, secondly, that people will be carrying prohibited objects, which are defined in the clause. Next, that officer has to reach three conclusions under subsection (4). I invite noble Lords to look at subsection (4), because “necessary” appears there three times. He has to believe reasonably, first, that

“the authorisation is necessary to prevent the commission of offences”;

that the “specified locality”—it has to be a specified locality—

“is no greater than is necessary to prevent such activity”;

and that the period of time, which cannot be more than 24 hours, is no more than is necessary. What can the superintendent do under subsection (5)? All they can do is to continue that authorisation—not start it, but continue it. For how long? No more than a further 24 hours. It is in that context that the constable can apprehend and do a stop and search.

So let us be clear about what these clauses actually do. There is no general power for a constable to stop and search without reasonable suspicion, or to do it anywhere, anytime, in any circumstances. It starts with an inspector, and it can be continued by a superintendent for no more than 24 hours. If we are going to vote, whether it is on suspicionless stop and search or John Lewis, let us at least be clear as to what we are voting on and not be diverted by some good old-fashioned red herrings.

My Lords, I want to make one point about Clause 11, which in my view should not be in the Bill. I appreciate that the previous speaker has just given a very lawyerly defence of the Government’s view. I am not a lawyer, but I want to say this: I wonder why the Government want to be on the wrong side of history by including Clause 11 in the Bill. I look at Members around the Chamber and think to myself, “What on earth would you feel like if you were ever arrested, stopped and searched without suspicion by a police officer?” I would like noble Lords to bear that in mind when they come to vote, if we are going to vote on this. A lot has been made of the younger generation, and I personally believe that Clause 11 would damage relations in the way that has been outlined by many people making very able speeches. But your Lordships should ask yourselves: how would you feel if you were stopped and searched without any reasonable suspicion by a police officer?

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 47 in my name, for which I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. Just in case I forget, I say now that I want to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 47.

Before I do so, I want to say how much I sympathise and agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others have said about Amendment 46 and stop and search with suspicion. It is worth reflecting that many of us are grappling with a Bill with much of which we disagree, but we are at Report stage and difficult decisions and choices are before us about how we might improve the Bill—if the votes are won in your Lordships’ House—and send it back to the other place with the best possible chance of it not being overturned, thereby impacting on the legislation in a way which will protect, as many of us want to, the rights and freedoms that the people of this country have enjoyed for generations and which parts of the Bill seriously threaten to undermine. That is the choice that lies before us. That is the difficult choice I have in saying from the Labour Front Bench that we are focused on Clause 11 in particular. That does not mean that we agree with other aspects of the stop and search powers, but it means that we think that Clause 11 in particular is an affront to the democratic traditions of our country.

We have heard what it actually does. We have had a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, a former senior police officer of the Metropolitan Police, and others, telling us about stop and search without suspicion and the impact that it has on black and ethnic minority communities, particularly on the young. Will your Lordships seriously pass into law something that will make that fragile relationship between the police and those local communities even worse? Is that what we want to do? And what is it for: terrorism, serious gun crime, serious knife crime, or the threat of murder and riots on our streets? No, it is because some protests may take place somewhere, and we will have stop and search without suspicion to deal with it. Is that in any sense proportionate or a reasonable response to public disorder? Clearly, it is not.

I cannot believe that His Majesty’s Government are seeking to introduce into law stop and search without suspicion for protest-related offences. I do not believe the Government themselves would have believed it—they certainly would not have believed it in the time of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, with the Conservative ideology as it existed then. Margaret Thatcher would not have introduced it. She would have regarded it as an affront, even in the face of the poll tax riots and the miners’ strikes—although there were certain things that went on there. In the face of all that, she did not introduce that sort of legislation. I will be corrected by any member of that Government—there are a few here—as to whether that was the case. She understood that the right to protest was fundamental, however difficult that was for Governments. Yet the Conservatives of today believe it is perfectly reasonable to introduce this not for murder, terrorism or knife or gun crime, as I said, but for protest. Is that the Tory tradition that this Conservative Government want to lay out before the country? It cannot be. It is a totally disproportionate reaction to what is happening, but the consequences are serious and dramatic, and potentially catastrophic. As so many noble Lords have said, at a time when there is a fragility of confidence between the police and certain communities, it is like pouring petrol on the flames. It is just unbelievable.

However, it is not just that. In the debate last week I gave an example, and I will give another one, because that brings it home and makes it real. When your Lordships vote on leaving out Clause 11, consider this. If it is in the Bill, there is a fear about what happens when there are protests around Parliament—there will be protests; I do not know what they will be about. Let us say that people lock arms—disgraceful—so they have attached. The police are worried about it and so an inspector declares that, for 24 hours, it is an area that they are concerned about. That gives an additional power to the police to stop and search without suspicion. Your Lordships can be searched. I know you would think that was an affront, but that is the reality that many black and ethnic minority communities face every single day, sometimes—that is an exaggeration, but they face it in certain circumstances.

Surely it is not just a matter of black and ethnic minorities. We do not know who were the two care workers who were stopped, whom the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, mentioned. However, it is clear—I speak as someone who, as a young barrister, had to carry out many sus law prosecutions—that a person stopped in those circumstances may next week appear on a jury and may be hostile to the police as a result of that, taking it out on them as a member of the jury.

I thank my noble friend Lord Anderson for that important point.

My example is that around Parliament Square, we have a designated area. Your Lordships, passing through it, can be stopped. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, has often mentioned that sometimes you have no idea that you are in such an area. I know that all your Lordships would co-operate—we have clarified that it must be an officer in uniform, so we would all stand there. However, if it was tourists who could not speak English, then good luck with that. It may be a young student with no idea that they are being stopped. That would happen. It is in the Bill that it is an offence to resist, and so it goes on. It is a complete overreaction and a disproportionate proposal that the Government are making.

To bring it home, let us think of it on Parliament Square. That is not some obscure place in the back end of London somewhere, or Manchester or wherever. Let us bring it right to our doorstep. When somebody says, “Who made it happen?”, the answer will be that Parliament made it happen, unless it is stripped out of the Bill. Unless it is changed or taken out, it is us.

We have heard from numerous noble Lords today objection after objection to the Bill. I have many objections to it. However, if you hone it down, there cannot be many more pernicious examples than Clause 11. Stopping and searching without suspicion for protests—honestly. Good luck to the Minister in justifying it. I know that his brief will give him all sorts of good arguments but at the bottom, it is a baseless piece of proposed legislation that seriously undermines the right to protest. It will have a chilling effect on many people who are simply protesting in the way that they have always done. I will divide the House when it comes to Amendment 47 and ask your Lordships to stand against Clause 11, to send it back to the other place and say that the Government must think again. It is a disproportionate reaction to a problem which they may perceive and it should be thrown out of the Bill.

My Lords, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, seeks to remove the suspicion-led stop and search measure from the Bill, while that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, seeks to remove the suspicionless stop and search measure. I understand the strength of feeling expressed by all noble Lords today when speaking to these amendments, but I do not support the removal of these provisions.

Stop and search is a vital tool used to crack down on crime and to protect communities. It is entirely appropriate that these measures are extended to tackle highly disruptive protest offences. The extension of stop and search powers will enable the police to proactively tackle highly disruptive protest offences by searching for and seizing prohibited items which are made, adapted or intended to be used in connection with protest-related offences, such as glue, chains and locks. We know that stop and search has a strong deterrent effect. These measures can prevent offenders from carrying items for protest-related offences in the first place because of the increased chance of getting caught. This was highlighted in the HMICFRS report on the policing of protests, where it was noted that suspicionless search powers can act as a deterrent when circumstances justify use of these powers. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for repeating this, and there is a difference of opinion with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but as I explained in Committee, His Majesty’s Inspector, Matt Parr, from HMICFRS reaffirmed his support for the suspicionless measure at the Bill’s evidence session in June.

It is vital that the police are given the powers that they need to reflect the operational reality of policing. In the fast-paced context of a protest, it can be challenging to assert the appropriate level of suspicion needed for a suspicion-led search, which is why the Bill includes the suspicionless provision. The suspicionless power will be usable only if certain conditions are met and in cases where, as we have heard, a police officer of or above the rank of inspector authorises its use in a specified locality for a specified period. This power uses a similar framework to that found within Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to ensure consistency in police powers and safeguards.

When this House considered the suspicionless power during Committee, much discussion focused on the execution of the search, so I thought it might help to set that out in detail here. As I noted above, this power uses a similar framework to that found in Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. An authorisation for a Section 60 suspicionless order may be given only by an officer of the rank of inspector or above and can be in place for a maximum of 24 hours. The Section 60 order can be extended for a further 24 hours, to a maximum of 48 hours, by an officer of or above the rank of superintendent, but it cannot be in place for more than 48 hours. It is for the authorising officer to determine the geographical area of the order, which will depend on the situation that led to the order being authorised.

I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Wolfson for explaining Clause 11 in such great detail, particularly in response to the question from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I reassure the House that, under existing powers, this power can be deployed only if authorised by an inspector and that an officer can do only a suspicion-led search without authorisation and only if they have grounds, if it has not been authorised in that way.

The officer should ensure that no area is set which is wider than they believe is necessary for the purpose of preventing the commission of offences. Both Code A and the authorised professional practice give clear instructions that a Section 60 order does not give officers free rein to search every individual within the locality covered by that order. A decision to search individuals under Section 60 powers must be related to the purpose of the authorisation. Section 60 powers cannot be used by plain-clothed officers, and the same applies to the suspicionless powers.

The suspicion-led powers use a similar framework to that found within Section 1 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Suspicion-led powers can be used by plain-clothed officers, but they must show their warrant card to the person who is to be searched. They must also give their name, or warrant or ID number if they reasonably believe giving their name may put them in danger, and the station to which they are attached.

All noble Lords who spoke discussed the potential for misuse of these powers. Officers using Section 1 or Section 60 powers are obliged by Code A to follow GOWISELY—a principle that officers follow in order to meet the legal requirements of a stop and search. This requires them to follow several steps before a search, including explaining the grounds for suspicion and the purpose of the search, showing their warrant card upon request or, if plain-clothed, disclosing their identity and the station that they are attached to, stating the legal power that they are using, and informing the person that they are entitled to a copy of the search record and how it may be obtained. If they do not follow this, the search is deemed unlawful. That will continue to apply here.

Many noble Lords also raised the potential disproportionate use of these powers. As I hope I made clear during Committee, the safeguards on existing stop and search powers will apply to the use of stop and search powers in the Bill, both for suspicion-led and suspicionless stop and search. This includes body-worn video and PACE codes of practice. The Home Office also publishes extensive data on the use of stop and search to drive transparency. To be clear, we expect the police to use their stop and search powers in a focused, legitimate, proportionate and necessary manner, and we encourage forces to continue scrutinising their use.

In a protest context, the use of stop and search powers will be vital when seeking to employ a proactive approach. By removing these powers from the Bill, we would ensure that the police, at best, relied on being reactive to protests. This in turn would leave the general public more vulnerable to serious disruption. I again hope that noble Lords will forgive me for repeating myself, but I believe it is important that they listen to what Chief Constable Chris Noble from the NPCC said when discussing these measures. He stated:

“We can see greater risk of harm to communities and protesters if things are left to run”

without additional pre-emptive police powers to handle disruptive protests. He explained that, having spoken to one of the senior commanders of the G7 operation,

“they described a lack of powers around stop and search for people with items that could only have been used for generating a lock-on device. They had to intervene later in the day, with more significant powers, on a wider group of protesters, therefore interfering with more people’s rights”.

I have heard the concerns raised about stop and search more generally, which I hope I have responded to adequately. But the police have supported stop and search measures, and we believe they will be highly effective for preventing the sort of disruption we have seen in recent months. As such, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken from all sides of the House and of the debate, from former police officers to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, who was arrested at a protest.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, made a great play on John Lewis. I emphasised in my speech that I was talking about everyday household objects, some of which may be purchased from John Lewis. The red herring was the noble Lord’s emphasis on John Lewis, rather than my emphasis on everyday objects and so forth.

The noble Lord, Lord Deben, asked what stop and search without suspicion was and what an officer would do. I accept that an inspector or above has to authorise officers to go ahead and stop and search without suspicion. The power means that police officers who are so authorised can stop and search whoever they like and do not have to justify what they are doing.

I should not waste noble Lords’ time dividing the House on an amendment that Labour will not support, and a vote that we therefore cannot win, however passionately I and other noble Lords feel about Clause 10. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 46 withdrawn.

Clause 11: Powers to stop and search without suspicion

Amendment 47

Moved by

47: Leave out Clause 11

The vote of Baroness Pitkeathley was recorded in the Not-Content Lobby in error, and should have been recorded in the Content Lobby. Therefore, the correct result was Contents 285, Not-Contents 208.

Amendment 48

Moved by

48: Before Clause 15, insert the following new Clause—

“Imposing conditions on public processions: serious disruption(1) Section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986 (imposing conditions on public processions) is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (2) insert—“(2ZA) In considering for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) whether a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community, the senior police officer may have regard to the cumulative disruption to the life of the community resulting from—(a) the procession,(b) any public procession in England and Wales within subsection (2ZB), and(c) any public assembly in England and Wales within subsection (2ZE).(2ZB) A public procession (“Procession A”) is within this subsection if it was held, is being held or is intended to be held in the same area as the area in which the procession mentioned in subsection (2ZA)(a) (“Procession B”) is being held or is intended to be held.(2ZC) In subsection (2ZB) “area” means such area as the senior police officer considers appropriate, having regard to the nature and extent of the disruption that may result from Procession A and Procession B. (2ZD) For the purposes of subsection (2ZB), it does not matter whether or not— (a) Procession A and Procession B are organised by the same person,(b) any of the same persons take part in Procession A and Procession B,(c) Procession A and Procession B are held or are intended to be held at the same time, or(d) directions are given under subsection (1) in relation to Procession A.(2ZE) A public assembly is within this subsection if it was held, is being held or is intended to be held in the same area as the area in which the procession mentioned in subsection (2ZA)(a) is being held or is intended to be held.(2ZF) In subsection (2ZE) “area” means such area as the senior police officer considers appropriate, having regard to the nature and extent of the disruption that may result from the assembly and the procession.(2ZG) For the purposes of subsection (2ZE) it does not matter whether or not—(a) the assembly and the procession are organised by the same person,(b) any of the same persons take part in the assembly and the procession,(c) the assembly and the procession are held or are intended to be held at the same time, or(d) directions are given under section 14(1A) (imposing conditions on public assemblies) in relation to the assembly.(2ZH) In considering for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) whether a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community—(a) all disruption to the life of the community—(i) that may result from the procession, or(ii) that may occur regardless of whether the procession is held (including in particular normal traffic congestion),is to be taken into account, and(b) “the community” means any group of persons that may be affected by the procession, and it does not matter whether or not all or any of those persons live or work in the vicinity of the procession.”(3) In subsection (2A) (examples of serious disruption)—(a) before paragraph (a) insert—“(za) it may, by way of physical obstruction, result in the prevention of, or a hindrance that is more than minor to, the carrying out of daily activities (including in particular the making of a journey),”,(b) in paragraph (a), for “a significant delay to” substitute “the prevention of, or a delay that is more than minor to,”, and(c) in paragraph (b), for “a prolonged disruption” substitute “the prevention, or a disruption that is more than minor,”.(4) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) Subsection (3B) applies where—(a) a public procession is being held or is intended to be held in England and Wales,(b) it appears to the senior police officer that there is a connection between the procession and—(i) one or more other public processions that are being held or that are intended to be held in England and Wales, or(ii) one or more public assemblies that are being held or that are intended to be held in England and Wales, (c) the senior police officer reasonably believes that one of the conditions in subsection (1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the procession mentioned in paragraph (a), and(d) the senior police officer reasonably believes—(i) in relation to a procession mentioned in paragraph (b)(i), that one of the conditions in subsection (1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the procession, or(ii) in relation to an assembly mentioned in paragraph (b)(ii), that one of the conditions in section 14(1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the assembly.(3B) The senior police officer may—(a) give directions under subsection (1) in relation to—(i) the procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a), and(ii) any procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(b)(i) in relation to which the condition in subsection (3A)(d)(i) is met, and(b) give directions under section 14(1A) in relation to any assembly mentioned in subsection (3A)(b)(ii) in relation to which the condition in subsection (3A)(d)(ii) is met.(3C) Directions given in accordance with subsection (3B) may impose the same or different conditions in relation to different processions and assemblies.(3D) In subsections (3A) and (3B) “the senior police officer” means—(a) where the public procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) is being held, the police officer responsible for managing the police response to the procession, and(b) where the public procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) is intended to be held, the chief officer of police.(3E) A direction given by a chief officer of police by virtue of subsection (3D)(b) must be given in writing.””Member’s explanatory statement

This new Clause amends section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986 (imposing conditions on public processions) to make provision about when a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community. The amendments also allow for conditions to be imposed in relation to connected processions and assemblies.

My Lords, we now turn back to government Amendments 48 to 51, which relate to the definition of serious disruption within Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 and the reasonable excuse defence with regard to the offences of wilful obstruction of the highway and public nuisance. These were debated by the House last week, so I intend to keep this brief.

Your Lordships will recall the compelling speeches made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in defence of the amendments he had tabled. I am sure I speak for many in expressing regret that his amendments were so narrowly defeated. The Government’s amendments follow the noble and learned Lord’s by proposing many of the same amendments for other aspects of public order legislation.

In summary, government Amendments 48 and 49 alter the definition of serious disruption in Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. They do this by, first, carrying over the definition of “serious disruption” suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. Secondly, they define the meaning of “community”. Thirdly, they will enable the police to consider the absolute impact of the disruption caused to the public. Fourthly, they allow the police to consider the cumulative disruption caused by protests. Fifthly and finally, they allow the officer responsible for managing the protest to place conditions on more than one connected procession or assembly.

Government Amendments 50 and 51 are similarly inspired by the reasonable excuse amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. Amendment 50 carves protest out of the offence of public nuisance, while Amendment 51 carves protest out of the lawful excuse of the offence of wilfully obstructing the highway. However, recognising that the offence is a low-level one, we do not carve it out in its entirety. Instead, the amendment removes protest from the reasonable excuse only where more than serious disruption is caused.

The Government’s amendments represent sensible, pragmatic changes that not only respond to a request from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service for further legislative clarity on the police’s powers to manage public processions and assemblies but bring aspects of public order legislation into line with recent case law. I would therefore like to test the opinion of the House.

Amendment 49 not moved.

Amendment 50

Moved by

50: After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—

“Wilful obstruction of highwayIn section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (penalty for wilful obstruction), after subsection (1) insert—“(1ZA) Subsection (1ZB) applies where—(a) a person wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway, and(b) the obstruction causes or is capable of causing serious disruption to two or more individuals or an organisation.(1ZB) The fact that the person wilfully obstructed the free passage along the highway as part of or in furtherance of a protest on an issue of current debate does not constitute a lawful excuse for the purposes of subsection (1).(1ZC) For the purposes of subsection (1ZA) an obstruction causes “serious disruption” if it prevents, or would hinder to more than a minor degree, the individuals or the organisation from carrying out their daily activities.””Member's explanatory statement

This new Clause amends section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (penalty for wilful obstruction of the highway) to provide that where a person wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway and that obstruction causes or is capable of causing serious disruption, the fact that they did so as part of or in furtherance of a protest on an issue of current debate does not constitute a lawful excuse.

Amendment 51 not moved.

Clause 17: Power of Secretary of State to bring proceedings

Amendments 52 and 53 not moved.

Amendment 54

Moved by

54: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—

“Protection for journalists and others monitoring protestsA constable may not exercise any police power for the principal purpose of preventing a person from observing or otherwise reporting on a protest or the exercise of police powers in relation to—(a) a protest-related offence,(b) a protest-related breach of an injunction, or(c) activities related to a protest.”Member's explanatory statement

This new Clause would protect journalists, legal observers, academics, and bystanders who observe or report on protests or the police’s use of powers related to protests.

My Lords, we now come to the totally uncontroversial matter of protecting journalists from abuse of police power. This is an amendment in my name and also those of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. We are honoured to have as our guest today the young LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch, who was arrested by Hertfordshire police for doing her job last November. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, will explain.

I shall be brief, because I know that time is of the essence. I begin by reading a very short extract from a news report for 28 November 2022—a couple of months ago:

“The BBC said Chinese police had assaulted one of its journalists covering a protest in the commercial hub of Shanghai and detained him for several hours, drawing criticism from Britain’s government, which described his detention as ‘shocking’ … ‘The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai,’ the British public service broadcaster said in a statement late on Sunday.”

I shall substitute a few words here to make the point. I substitute “Charlotte Lynch” for “Ed Lawrence”, “the M25 in Hertfordshire” for “Shanghai”, and LBC for the BBC—and another world. Charlotte, like Ed Lawrence was handcuffed for doing her job. She was held in a cell with a bucket for a toilet for five hours; she was fingerprinted and her DNA was taken, and she was not allowed to speak to anyone. Her arrest took place just two weeks before Ed Lawrence’s. Is this the kind of world we want to live in?

As many noble Lords know, I have been a journalist and a newspaper editor. I have sent people to cover wars and protests, and I believe fundamentally in the right of anyone in the world, especially in our country, to protest about things they believe in. You protest only when you cannot get anywhere with anything else, when letters to MPs, to the local council and the newspaper have been explored and you take to the streets. But just as this is a fundamental right, so is it more than just a fundamental right—it is a duty— of journalists to report on demonstrations, because demonstrations are where we see where society is fracturing and where people really care. I cannot believe, as a former newspaper editor, that I would now have to think that it might be more dangerous to send a journalist to Trafalgar Square than to Tahrir Square. I urge noble Lords to vote for this amendment.

My Lords, it is hard to overemphasise the importance of this amendment. It is firmly rooted in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to … receive … information and ideas without interference by public authority”.

The word “everyone” which begins that article is extremely important because it applies the rights to everybody, whoever they may be. It may be suggested that the point being made by the amendment is so obvious that it is unnecessary, but I simply do not believe that. In the highly charged atmosphere of the kind of public protest we are contemplating in these proceedings, it is too big a risk to leave this without having it stated in the Bill and made part of our law. It should not be necessary, but I believe it is necessary, and it is firmly rooted, as I say, in Article 10 and those very important words. I support this amendment.

My Lords, I could not put a cigarette paper between the arguments of the two previous speakers and those I would like to make. If we are not careful, we will move to preventing the media from creating fair and accurate reports of our courts and even of this place. I do not believe I am exaggerating in linking the two sets of arguments and I very much support this amendment.

My Lords, I do not support the amendment, and I do this at some danger, because one of my roommates in the Lords is proposing it. I do not support it for a reason of principle and a reason of practice. First, on the reason of principle, I quite agree that a journalist should not be arrested for doing their job: it is very obvious that this should not happen. However, if I understand it correctly, the only reason a journalist might be challenged about their behaviour is if they are doing an act contrary to the Bill—in other words, they are locking on or they are protesting in a way that is illegal. That is the behaviour that is being challenged.

Secondly, whether or not you accept that argument for journalists, I do not understand how you define these other people in a way that the police will understand, particularly in a protest. An observer, somebody who is monitoring: how are the police to know who these people are? I guess that as soon as a protester is challenged, they might decide that they are a monitor, an observer or any of the groups that might be protected.

I understand the principle behind it. None of us wants to stop people holding the police to account, but that is not really the problem. Even if you accept that journalists should be protected in this way, I do not understand how you define the group in a way that allows the police properly to do their job without asking people how they fall into this category—they are not registered anywhere. Journalists complain that many people now claim to be journalists but are merely reporting online. Is that group included in this definition as well?

It is partly a problem of definition and partly the fact that journalists, unless they are committing a criminal offence, should not be challenged about their behaviour. I get that they are there to record the event, but I am not sure that this protection is needed, for the reason given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope: there is a protection in the convention that should allow them access to that defence anyway. I cannot support this amendment.

My Lords, I disagree very strongly with the noble Lord, because I think he is wrong. Once you give the police the idea that it is okay to arrest a journalist, why would we expect them to understand—you cannot deny that the police quite often misuse the law because they do not understand it—that they can do so only if they are gluing their hands or something like that? In any case, what journalist would do that? I cannot think that they would want to.

Mistakes are made; people are arrested wrongly. The police find acute problem-solving solutions when everyone else talks about “in six months’ time”. Someone has to make a decision; sometimes they make the wrong one—they happen to be human beings—and that is a problem. There is no general defence of being a journalist to any criminal offence. There is protection of legally privileged material, including journalistic material, and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides quite proper protection for that. However, that is not the same as providing a general defence for criminal behaviour to a journalist. In my view, that is what this proposes.

I speak as the mother of a journalist, so I have a vested interest here, but journalists do not go along to protests to join them but to watch and report on them. The Hertfordshire police and crime commissioner, David Lloyd, with whom I had the displeasure of sharing a panel the day after this all happened, said that protesters should not have the oxygen of publicity. That was his attitude: “Freedom of the press is fine, but not for protesters.” That is utterly unreasonable, as are the noble Lord’s comments. I support this very strongly. I do not see why anyone here would have a problem with it, except the Government. What are they frightened of? What do they think journalists will report that would look so bad for them? Obviously, almost anything.

My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, has said. This is really a matter of definition. We all agree that journalists should not be arrested while doing their job, but it is very difficult for a policeman to distinguish between A and B—

Yes, but I do not think the noble Baroness has focused on the point that a lot of demonstrators would represent themselves as journalists to avoid the prescriptive provisions of the Bill. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, was talking about, and he is wholly right.

I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. The word “journalist” is not in the amendment—just “a person”, who is defined as “observing or otherwise reporting”. That is what it says, and it is very clear.

I appreciate that. I did not realise that the noble and learned Lord was intervening—I apologise for not sitting down at once. The point is surely that we are dealing with the need to protect journalists. The risk is that any demonstrator involved will say that they are a journalist or otherwise fall within the protection of this proposed new clause. That is what worries me.

My Lords, if anything illustrates why this amendment is needed, it is the last few exchanges. A number of noble Lords are already suspicious that people reporting on a demonstration are really malevolently pretending to be doing so. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said that the police have said to him that people will pretend to be reporting and asked how they would know. That is the difficulty. If the police start off suspicious that journalists are really just people pretending to be journalists to get away with locking on and being disruptive, we have a problem.

What this amendment will do, and it is important to do so, is to state that it is a legitimate pursuit to be reporting on a demonstration, whatever your opinion of the demonstration. I have heard people say that all the people reporting on a demonstration who are not officially working for the BBC or LBC are actually demonstrators, but there are people who are opposed to, for example, Just Stop Oil who are reporting on it because they are trying to get support against the demonstrators. That is what is ironic. The point is that they are reporting. In a democracy, we need to know about such things. One of the great things about technology is that you can sometimes see it and know about it because somebody is there reporting on it or filming it.

We should stick by the principle of journalistic freedom. Those people who say people pretend to be journalists to get off scot free show how the Bill is already poisoning the well and making anybody associated with a demonstration in any capacity seem dodgy. What is dodgy is making that conclusion.

May I respond to the noble Baroness, because I think she misrepresented what I said? I think I said that the officer would be intervening because of criminal behaviour, not because someone was a journalist or was suspected of being one. That would be the reason. There may be cases where an officer has intervened because they thought someone was a journalist and they did not want it to be recorded. I am not saying that has never happened; that would be wrong. There is no doubt about that. My point was only that the only reason for an officer to intervene should be—in principle, from the law—because the person is committing a criminal offence. That is what the Bill is all about: defining what is criminal and what is not. Therefore, I do not think it is fair to represent what I said as picking on someone because they are a journalist.

I wonder if I could help the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, because he has not, with respect, read the amendment—or at least not very carefully. To be clear, there would be nothing to prevent the arrest of a journalist, filmmaker, legal observer or anybody else if the officer suspected the commission of a criminal offence, including offences in the Bill that I disagree with. The protection is only against the use of police powers for the primary purpose of preventing the reporting. That is a judgment that is left to the officer, but what he cannot do is to say, “You’re a reporter. You’re giving protesters the oxygen of publicity, and I’m gonna arrest you.” That is the protection given here to people such as Charlotte Lynch, who could not possibly have been reasonably suspected of locking on or committing any other criminal offence. Such people could be suspected only of what they were actually doing: their job as reporters in a free society.

My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has just said that, because it was the point I was going to make. I will make one brief intervention. I was always brought up on the proposition that it is better that someone who is guilty goes free than that someone who is innocent is punished. That ought to be our guiding principle, particularly when we are dealing with such sensitive issues and such an important Bill.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, spoke very briefly, and very powerfully, she began with a story from China. We do not want to be bracketed with that. We talk a lot in this House about the importance of freedom of speech, and we mean it—passionately. However, freedom of speech cannot exist properly unless there is a free press. It may often say things that we deplore or get the balance wrong, but it must have that freedom. A free society depends upon a free Parliament and free speech, and it depends upon a free press and free broadcasting. We are going in the wrong direction with this issue if we do not accept the amendment that has been signed by a very distinguished Law Lord: the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I would take his advice on this as much as I would take anyone’s. It would be better if the Government did not oppose this amendment.

I would like to follow what my noble friend just said, or at least the beginning of his remarks following the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. If the Chinese Communist Party, through its quisling administration in Hong Kong, was introducing legislation like this, we would denounce it. The Foreign Office would denounce it—it would be in its six-monthly report about attacks on freedom of speech and attacks on freedom in Hong Kong—and we would all cheer. It is astonishing that we are proposing in this country the sort of thing which we would denounce if the Chinese Communist Party were doing it in Hong Kong.

My Lords, I may be labouring under a misapprehension, but surely there is a critical difference between this country and China. As I understand it, the proposed new clause would prevent a constable exercising a police power for the principal purpose of preventing someone observing or reporting on a protest. If we do not pass this amendment, that act—that is, arresting somebody for the principal purpose of preventing reporting on a protest—would still be unlawful: it would be an abuse of police powers to do that. The difference is that here we are being asked to pass legislation to make illegal that which is already unlawful. That is the concern I have with it. When I was a Minister, I was frequently told, “You should add this clause and that clause to send a signal”, and I kept saying, “The statute book is not a form of semaphore.” My problem with this clause is nothing to do with the content of it; I just have a problem with passing legislation to make unlawful that which is already unlawful.

My Lords, there cannot be any legitimate objection to journalists, legal observers, academics or even members of the public who want to observe and report on protests or on the police’s use of their powers related to protests. We have seen in incident after incident how video footage of police action, whether from officers’ own body-worn video or that taken by concerned members of the public, has provided important evidence in holding both protesters and police officers to account for their actions. The need for this amendment is amply evidenced by the arrest and detention of the accredited and documented broadcast journalist, Charlotte Lynch, while reporting on a Just Stop Oil protest. It is all very well for noble Lords to say, “Well, if somebody was arrested in the way that Charlotte Lynch was arrested, it was unlawful”, but the fact is that Charlotte Lynch was taken out of the game for five hours and detained in a police cell, where she could not observe what was going on. We need upfront protection for journalists and observers, and not to rely on a defence that they can put after they have been handcuffed, arrested, and put in a police cell even though they are in possession of a police-accredited press pass. We support this amendment and will vote for it if the noble Baroness divides the House.

My Lords, there is something to be said for semaphore in the wider sense. That is, one of the problems that I think many noble Lords have had with the Bill is that it is sending a signal, as the noble Lord, Lord Patten, just suggested, against freedom of expression. Certainly, we need clarity in making law—I have changed my mind on two amendments today thanks to the interventions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. However, I will not change my mind on this one, because I think back to those women who were dragged around at the protest after Sarah Everard’s murder and who themselves filmed what was going on, to the disgust of the whole nation. Sometimes semaphore is very important. We are looking not just at the fine lines of the law today but at the message we are sending to the population: that we are a free society and that we want a free press. I will support the amendment.

My Lords, we support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and if she divides the House, we will support her in the Division Lobbies. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, a free press is the hallmark of a democratic society; we should remind ourselves of that. In doing so, I reflect again on the really important point made by my noble friend. The amendment is not concerned with the police using their powers proportionately, where appropriate, if criminal behaviour is taking place. It states:

“A constable may not exercise any police power for the principal purpose of preventing a person from observing or otherwise reporting on a protest”.

It is not saying that there is carte blanche for anybody who is observing to do anything they want around a protest, to exploit it for their own reasons and to conduct criminal activity, or that it would prevent the police doing anything about that; far from it. It seeks to allow reporters and others to observe and report to the wider public, to different sections of the country and beyond, who may not even be there or understand what the protest is about. That is important, and this must be an unfettered, protected power. That is why we support the amendment, which is extremely important, among the many other extremely important amendments we are discussing today.

My Lords, I apologise for my slightly tardy arrival.

Amendment 54, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Boycott, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, seeks to establish a specific safeguard for journalists and bystanders during protests. It follows the wrongful arrest and detention of the LBC journalist Charlotte Lynch in November. May I reassure the House that it is not okay? I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that it is absolutely not okay to arrest a journalist who is doing their job.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for tabling this amendment, and agree with the need for journalists and innocent bystanders to be adequately safeguarded during protests. The Government are clear that the role of members of the press must be respected. It is vital that journalists be able to do their job freely and without restriction. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and my noble friend Lord Cormack that a free press is the hallmark of a civilised society.

The police can exercise their powers only in circumstances where they have reasonable grounds to do so. Hertfordshire Constabulary has accepted that its wrongful arrests of journalists on the M25 were unlawful. Noble Lords will be aware that an independent review was conducted into Hertfordshire Constabulary’s arrest of journalists during the M25 protests. With your Lordships’ indulgence, I will go into a little of the detail on that. Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s report specifies that:

“The power of arrest is principally governed by PACE 1984 and to be lawful, the arrest must be necessary by reference to statutory powers set out within PACE 1984. Code G provides additional rules and guidance on the use of the power of arrest. Of particular relevance to this operation, it is important to observe the judgement laid out following O’Hara v Chief Constable of Royal Ulster Constabulary 1996—an officer cannot exercise the power of arrest based on instruction from a superior officer. In order to satisfy the requirements under section 24 of PACE 1984, the superior officer must convey sufficient information in order for the arresting officer to develop reasonable grounds.”

I went into that in some detail because Section 24 —“Arrest without warrant: constables”—is very clear. A constable may arrest without warrant

“anyone who is about to commit an offence; anyone who is in the act of committing an offence; anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an offence; anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an offence. If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, he may arrest without a warrant anyone whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of it.”

Under those criteria, I struggle to see how the primary purpose of being a journalist, which the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, referred to, and reporting on a protest, would ever constitute reasonable grounds.

Going back to the Cambridge case, the constabulary also specified that code G of PACE 1984 gives some separate guidance on necessity criteria:

“The power of arrest is only exercisable if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that it is necessary to arrest the person.”

It is very clear. We are all protected by those rules and that includes journalists. The review revealed that the issue was one of training and proposed several recommendations to fix this, including ensuring that all public safety officers and commanders carry out the College of Policing and National Union of Journalists awareness training. The constabulary has promptly implemented these recommendations. This is not an issue of law but one of training and guidance, which is already being addressed.

My noble and learned friend makes a very fair point, but the College of Policing and the National Union of Journalists awareness training is a little more recent than the 40 year-old PACE codes.

The College of Policing’s initial learning curriculum includes a package of content on effectively dealing with the media in a policing context. In addition, the authorised professional practice for public order contains a section on the interaction of the police with members of the media. This includes the recognition of press identification. It should also be noted that it is entirely legitimate for a police officer to inquire why an individual may be recording at the scene of a criminal offence if they deem it appropriate. We do not want to suggest that this is unlawful.

In light of those factors, while I completely understand the direction and purpose of the amendment, we do not support it because we do not deem it to be necessary. These defences are already covered in law.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short but vital debate. Once more to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who I am not sure has read the amendment—

This amendment is not about preventing the arrest of anybody, journalist or otherwise, who is reasonably suspected of committing a criminal offence, including offences in this Bill. There is no definitional problem, because what is defined is the purpose of the arrest, not the identity of the person. This is important because even after Charlotte Lynch’s arrest, a Conservative police and crime commissioner took to the airwaves to say, “You are giving the oxygen of publicity to protesters.” In other words, “You are complicit in this kind of disruptive action by reporting it.”

If a senior Conservative police and crime commissioner took that view, it is perhaps understandable that some hard-working, hard-pressed police officers in difficult times might take the same view. The offence for which Miss Lynch was arrested was the very open-textured “conspiracy to cause a public nuisance”. Therefore, if a journalist has been tipped off that there is to be a demonstration that may or may not turn out to be disruptive and they go to do their job of reporting, some police officers, it would seem, and others may believe that in some sense to be complicity in causing or conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

I also want to thank the Minister and his Bill team for meeting me just yesterday—although of course the Home Office press office had already told various media outlets that the Home Office was doubling down on this amendment. At that meeting, I asked the Minister and his colleagues to explain the basis for Ms Lynch’s arrest being unlawful. By the way, many other journalists have recently been arrested; what was the basis for these being unlawful arrests? I got the answer that noble Lords just got from the Minister.

What is said to be unlawful about Ms Lynch’s arrest is not that she is a journalist, but that individual officers were taking direction from their superiors and not exercising their own judgment. That is a technical and very important matter, but it is not the issue at stake here. I asked the Bill team and the Minister: where is the authority, the legal provision, in primary or even secondary legislation, that says that journalists should not be arrested, for example for conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, just for reporting on something that itself may be a public nuisance? There was no authority and no provision offered. So vague assertions about PACE codes that do not even deal with my specific point are really not going to cut it—not on something as important as free reporting in a free society.

I have moved this amendment and I seek to test the opinion of your Lordships’ House.

Amendment 55 not moved.

Clause 19: Serious disruption prevention order made on conviction

Amendment 56

Moved by

56: Clause 19, page 22, line 20, leave out sub-paragraphs (iii) to (v)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would limit the trigger events for an SDPO to the commission of a protest-related offence and the breach of a protest-related injunction.

My Lords, I rise to propose a number of amendments to Part 2 of the Bill, which provides for serious disruption prevention orders, or SDPOs. These are civil orders, breach of which is punishable by imprisonment. Imposed by magistrates at the request of the police, their intended effect is to prevent people, who may or may not have been convicted of a protest-related offence, from participating in or assisting future protest-related activities by means of blanket restrictions on their movement, activities, association, and use of the internet—see the list of permitted requirements in Clause 21(2) and the rather forbidding list of permitted prohibitions in Clause 21(4), neither of which is exhaustive.

In Committee, the Minister said, rather colourfully, that SDPOs are targeted on

“a small group of individuals”


“repeatedly trample on the rights of the public without let or hindrance”.—[Official Report, 13/12/22; col. 639.]

For those individuals, we are asked to assume that the availability of bail conditions and of ever-longer prison sentences for an ever-growing list of offences are insufficient.

My objections to SDPOs are twofold. My first is, to use the Minister’s language, that they can imposed not just on those who trample on others but on people who tiptoe over the boundary or enable others to do so and, indeed, under Clause 20, on people who have never broken the law and in respect of whom there is no evidence that they ever will. The likely effect of these clauses in chilling the freedom of assembly is obvious.

My second objection is that there are remarkably few lets and hindrances on SDPOs themselves, even by the standards of comparable orders aimed at the prevention of knife crime, domestic violence and terrorism. In Committee, I pointed out the six central respects in which SDPOs are more severe even than the TPIMs, successors to the once-controversial control orders that we impose on a tiny handful of dangerous terrorists and that I was much concerned with when I was Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Yet the Government estimate that 400 SDPOs will be imposed every year: 200 after conviction for protest-related offences under Clause 19, and 200 under Clause 20 on people who need not have been convicted of anything at all.

I turn to the three categories of amendments in this group. The first category is the old stand part debates from Committee, renewed in the form of Amendments 59 and 63 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, which I have signed, along with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. These give effect to the views of bodies ranging from HMICFRS to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. They attracted wide and distinguished support when we debated them in Committee.

The second category of amendments are those tabled by the Government after the Minister’s promise to think further. Amendments 58 and 62 reduce from five years to three years the period in respect of which previous offences or other conduct may be taken into account before imposing an SDPO. That does not address the main concerns with SDPOs, but it is something. Amendment 65, with those consequential on it, deletes the express authority in the Bill for the use of electronic tags to monitor compliance with an SDPO. This removes one of the more eye-catching features of these orders but leaves unaffected the unlimited range of requirements that an SDPO may contain, limited only by the purposes broadly defined in Clauses 19(5) and 20(4). Finally, Amendment 69 provides that an SDPO may not be renewed more than once, although, since SDPOs can still be imposed for an unlimited duration, this might be considered a rather limited comfort. I thank the Government for these amendments, which are welcome. However, with respect, they do no more than nibble around the edges.

The third category of amendments are the seven that appear under my name, with the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and, as to six of the seven, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I hope that it is fair to describe them as modest. I will say a brief word about each.

Amendment 56, to which I draw the particular attention of the House, and Amendment 60 would limit the trigger events for an SDPO to the commission of a protest- related offence or the breach of a protest-related injunction by the person to be subjected to an SDPO. The effect of that change is that you could not be a target of an SDPO, as you could under the Bill as it currently stands, if you drove your daughter to a demonstration in which serious disruption such as delay or hindrance was caused to two or more individuals.

Amendments 57 and 61 would ensure that a second or subsequent SDPO made in respect of any person was founded on trigger events that had not already been taken into account for the purposes of the imposition of a previous SDPO. I would be amazed if anything different were intended by Government, and I persist in the hope that these might be accepted as simply clarifying or tidying-up amendments.

Amendment 64 would limit the requirements that may be imposed by an SDPO to those having the effects specified in Clause 21(2). That would no longer be an illustrative list but an exhaustive list. But note the modesty of this amendment too: it would leave unaffected the long and draconian list of permitted prohibitions in Clause 21(4).

Amendment 71 would limit the total maximum duration of any SDPO to two years, which could be extended to a total of four years under the Government’s Amendment 69. Of course, new facts could form the basis of another SDPO even beyond that point.

Amendment 72 would remove the Secretary of State’s power in Clause 30(2)(b) to give guidance to the police

“about identifying persons in respect of whom it may be appropriate for applications for serious disruption prevention orders to be made”.

That guidance power is an extraordinary infringement on the operational independence of the police, as I hope your Lordships will agree.

I am unrepentant in my opposition to SDPOs as unnecessary, disproportionate and dangerously broad. That is why I support the stand part amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and will vote with him if he so invites the House to remove Clause 20 from the Bill. If there is insufficient appetite to remove Clause 19 and the Benches opposite indicate their support, I propose to test the opinion of the House on my Amendment 56, which would ensure that the trigger events for an order under Clause 19 are limited to protest-related convictions or breaches of protest-related injunctions.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, I support all but one of his amendments. The one I do not support is very minor and, out of an abundance of caution, I decided not to put my name to it. A particular point I wish to draw attention to arises from his Amendments 56 and 60, which deal with the trigger events for the pronouncement of these orders. The noble Lord seeks to take out the third, fourth and fifth trigger events. He is absolutely right to want to do so because of the breadth of the expression, and of a particular point that I will come to.

The third trigger event concerns carrying out

“activities related to a protest that resulted in, or were likely to result in, serious disruption”.

That phrase describes a protest, but the word “activities” is so wide that it raises real questions about the certainty of this provision. The same point arises in respect to the fifth trigger event.

The fourth trigger event contains quite an extraordinary proposition, which is that the person

“caused or contributed to the commission by any other person of a protest-related offence or a protest-related breach of an injunction”.

An offence is defined in statute. Everyone is presumed to know the law, so it is fair enough to mention the “offence” in that particular trigger event, but injunctions are directed to individuals; they are not publicised in the same way as offences. A person might have absolutely no idea that the other person in question was in breach of an injunction, of which he had no notice whatever. That is absolutely objectionable. On any view, the fourth trigger event should be deleted from both these clauses, but for broader reasons and those given by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, which I need not elaborate on, I support his amendments.

My Lords, I will make three brief comments about these amendments. First, regarding the trigger points, I entirely agree with Amendments 56 and 60 from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, which the noble and learned Lord spoke to. The reference to an injunction is particularly worrying because, for the reason the noble and learned Lord mentioned, members of the public would not be aware of it. In any event, what are or could be contemplated in the third, fourth and fifth trigger events are acts that are very remote from the mischief the Bill contemplates. Therefore, I very much hope that the amendments are put to the House, and I shall support them if they are.

Secondly, your Lordships need to keep in mind that the test of necessity, which is dealt with in Clause 20(1)(d), is quite a high bar. I deal with it in interim orders made by the regulatory panels, which are fully aware that “necessity” is different from “desirability” and requires quite a high threshold.

My last point is a query to the Minister, if he would be so kind. It is a very long time since I dealt with complaints before magistrates’ courts, so I apologise for not really being familiar with the procedure. In any view, these SDPOs are very serious. Does the complaint, which presumably has to be made both by the court and to the person named, specify the concerns felt by the senior police officer? Does it specify the relief being sought in the order itself? I assume that these are inter partes hearings, not ex parte. Does the person against whom the order is sought have the opportunity to make representations, give evidence, be represented and object to the relief being sought? This is ignorance on my part, but I fancy that quite a lot of your Lordships would like to know the procedure being invoked.

My Lords, as we have heard, most of the amendments in this group seek to restrict the proposed provisions in serious disruption prevention orders so that they are more in line with terrorism prevention and investigation measures. TPIMs are primarily designed for instances where the case against someone who is believed to be a serious threat to society—a suspected terrorist—is based on intelligence rather than evidence that could be given in open court. They are supposed to be a temporary measure while attempts are made to secure the evidence necessary to convict the person of a criminal offence. SDPOs as originally drafted were potentially limitless banning orders preventing people from involvement in protests, even if they had never physically been present at a protest before and, in the case of Clause 20, had never been convicted of a criminal offence.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton- under-Heywood, pointed out in Committee, these orders would remove people’s rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights if a court was satisfied on the balance of probabilities—depriving people of their human rights on the weakest of evidential tests. Even in the case of Clause 19, on serious disruption prevention orders on conviction, where the court is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that a criminal offence has been committed, the court needs to be satisfied only on the balance of probabilities that the offence was protest related. It then has to be satisfied—again, only on the balance of probabilities—of a second involvement in a protest. For example, if someone had contributed to crowdfunding to pay for coaches to take protesters to London and, in the end, there were not enough protesters and the coaches never went, but serious disruption was likely to have resulted if they had and the coaches had been full of protesters, on the balance of probabilities the court could impose an SDPO.

That many of the amendments in this group attempt to weaken SDPOs, making them merely outrageous rather than totally unacceptable, is no reason to support them—perhaps with the exception of Amendment 56, which seeks to limit those who would be made subject to an SDPO and which, frankly, goes nowhere near far enough. The House should not make legislation less bad when it has an opportunity to oppose it in its entirety. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, expressed his support for that by signing Amendment 59.

As His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services reported in its review of public order policing, the police’s view was that courts would be reluctant to deprive individuals of their right to protest by granting protest banning orders in the first place, and even more reluctant to impose any significant penalty should someone breach an order by peacefully participating in a future protest. If they caused serious disruption, they would be convicted of a substantive public order offence. As a result, SDPOs were seen as unworkable and having no real deterrent effect.

We support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede—to leave out Clauses 19 and 20—which have been signed by me, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. We cannot support depriving anyone of their human rights on an evidential test of the balance of probabilities, especially when the police believe that the courts would be unlikely to impose SDPOs or a deterrent penalty for any breach. We will support the noble Lord when, we hope, he divides the House on Amendments 59 and 63.

My Lords, to be clear at the outset, we will support Amendment 56 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and I will not divide the House on Amendment 59. I shall speak to Amendment 63, which is tabled in my name and has cross-party and Cross-Bench support.

I welcome the positive move that the Government have made on SDPOs, particularly removing electronic monitoring and limiting an SDPO’s renewal to only once to take into account some of the concerns raised in this House and the other place. Despite this, it remains my view that it is necessary to pursue the wholesale removal of Clause 20. It is simply not proportionate, necessary, Human Rights Act-compliant or good value for money to introduce a power to allow serious disruption prevention orders to be given without a conviction being made.

This is not just my view. The Joint Committee on Human Rights agrees that Clause 20 would interfere

“with legitimate peaceful exercise of Article 10 and 11 rights”

and that:

“The police already have powers to impose conditions on protests and to arrest those who breach them.”

Amnesty International also agrees, saying that Clause 20 is “wholly disproportionate”, restricting

“the exercise of a fundamental right of peaceful assembly based on past conduct and there is no requirement that the past conduct be of a serious nature.”

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner also agrees, confirming this week that “policing is not asking for new powers to constrain protests”.

Experts agree that, since the police already have the powers they need and since this new power would threaten the fundamental right to assemble peacefully, the Government would be wise to think again on this matter. The UK cannot condemn authoritarian regimes cracking down on protests and at the same time celebrate the bravery of protests such as the umbrella movement or the white paper protesters. I will divide the House on Amendment 63, and I hope the Government will use this opportunity to remove this harmful provision.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this shortish debate. This group contains notices to oppose, so I will start with those amendments which take issue with serious disruption prevention orders as a whole. The feeling expressed by noble Lords when speaking to these amendments is clear, but I do not support the full removal of these provisions, and it is important that I make clear the reasons why.

Peaceful protest is a fundamental part of our democracy, but causing serious disruption under the guise of a protest is not. Why should protesters who are determined repeatedly to inflict serious disruption continue to be allowed to do so, especially when their actions impact those who simply wish to go about their daily lives, and potentially risk the safety of our emergency services? SDPOs will give the police and the courts the powers that they need proactively to prevent protesters causing serious disruption, time and again. Those protesters found in breach of an SDPO will be liable for arrest, meaning that the police will not need to stand by until an act of protest-related serious disruption has already taken place before they can act.

Some will argue that many of these protesters are already arrested, but a small group of individuals who have been arrested during disruptive protest action have reoffended soon after. To deter this small group of individuals, SDPOs provide an alternative, non-custodial route to prevent those who have a track record of causing serious disruption in the name of protest. SDPOs will prevent protesters causing harm by subjecting them to proportionate and necessary restrictions or requirements. Such restrictions might involve stopping a protester who has previously locked on carrying an item that would assist them doing so again or require a protester, for example, to report to a police officer at the time when a planned protest is due to take place. I should make it clear that it will be up to the courts to consider what measures are put in place on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they are both proportionate and necessary.

In Committee, concerns were raised that SDPOs are a harsh and intrusive way of preventing serious disruption. However, it is important to make it clear that a prohibition or requirement of a preventive order is much less intrusive than a prison sentence, which is a potential consequence of some of the protest-related offences that can lead to an SDPO.

Many noble Lords have asked whether anybody at a protest could be subject to an SDPO. As I hope I made clear in Committee, only those who have committed protest-related offences, breached a protest-related injunction or caused or contributed to protest-related activities on at least two occasions would be considered for an SDPO. It is for the courts to decide whether someone’s actions caused or contributed to serious disruption at a protest and meet the threshold of an SDPO.

In answer to my noble friend Lord Hailsham’s question, I say that the person potentially subject to an order may present evidence so, yes, the court may consider evidence from the person potentially subject to an SDPO and may adjourn proceedings if the person does not appear for any reason. I should also clarify that Clause 20(6) states:

“On making a serious disruption prevention order the court must in ordinary language explain to P the effects of the order.”

Therefore the person would need to be present.

I interpreted that subsection to mean that the statement could be in writing if the person did not attend. Is that correct?

I will need to clarify that but, given the other things that I have said, it would imply—I stress “imply”—that the person needed to be there, but I will come back on that point.

I also stress that those who make their voices heard without committing offences or causing serious disruption would not be affected.

The evidential threshold of SDPOs was also the subject of discussion. I am sure that many noble Lords support the courts’ imposition of injunctions which are made on the civil burden of proof and ban large numbers of people protesting in certain locations, including, on occasions, “persons unknown”. The burden of proof is the same for SDPOs, and they are made against known individuals whose actions have shown that an order is necessary.

Noble Lords also raised the question of how SDPOs will be enforced. As I hope I conveyed in Committee, it will ultimately be for the courts to place necessary, proportionate and enforceable conditions on protesters subject to an SDPO and for the police to exercise any powers of arrest in relation to breaches. However, I assure the House that the Government will be setting out statutory guidance for SDPOs to aid the police and courts in due course.

The use of SDPOs is critical when equipping the police with powers to ensure that they can take proactive steps against prolific protesters. So in removing SDPOs fully from the Bill, we will continue to see the police struggle to get ahead of those protesters who are hell- bent on repeatedly inflicting serious disruption.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned the HMICFRS’s comments about banning orders not being compatible with human rights, but the report from the policing inspectorate considered only orders that would always ban an individual protesting. SDPOs grant the courts discretion to impose any prohibitions and requirements necessary to protect the public from protest-related crimes and serious disruption, so depending on the individual circumstances this may mean that the court will not consider it necessary to stop individuals attending protests.

Nevertheless, as I made clear when we discussed these measures in Committee, I recognise the strength of feeling expressed by your Lordships. In that vein, I turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. I thank him for his continued engagement on this Bill as a whole. His amendments all seek to amend the SDPO regime in some way, be it limiting the trigger events for an order, limiting the maximum duration of an SDPO, limiting the requirements that can be imposed on an individual or amending some of the guidance that is to be issued by the Secretary of State concerning these measures. We still believe that SDPOs are an important and useful tool for stopping repeat protesters committed to causing disruption. For this reason we regrettably cannot support the amendments proposed, which we assess amount to a substantial dilution of the Bill’s effectiveness. However, we recognise the sentiment behind them, as well as the other concerns raised, which is why I committed to take the matter away.

As a result of that consideration, the Government have tabled amendments which seek to allay some of the concerns expressed by your Lordships. We have tabled an amendment which removes the electronic monitoring provisions from the Bill, meaning that no individual subject to an order would have the requirements and prohibitions imposed monitored electronically. This was a particular concern of your Lordships, and we have responded accordingly. The second amendment reduces the relevant period of past conduct which is considered for SDPOs from within five years to within three years. The final amendment addresses a criticism made by your Lordships concerning the renewal of an order. Indeed, many noble Lords expressed concerns that an order could be continuously renewed. The amendment we have tabled therefore addresses this by setting a limit on the number of times an order can be renewed to only once. It is the Government’s view that these amendments represent a substantive offer and address the main criticisms of SDPOs. I encourage all noble Lords to support the amendments in the Government’s name and to reject the others in this group.

The Minister will recall that I described my Amendments 57 and 61 as clarificatory. It seemed to me that the Government must surely have not intended that a second or subsequent SDPO made in respect of the same person could be founded on trigger events that had already been taken into account for the purposes of a previous SDPO. I understand that the Minister does not accept my amendments, but can he at least clarify that that is the Government’s understanding of the Bill?

I am grateful to the Minister for that and for his engagement throughout this process. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, in particular to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his extremely pertinent points on the three sub-paragraphs that my Amendment 56 would remove from Clause 19, and to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, for the broader point, which I tried to make as well, that those sub-paragraphs capture conduct that is simply too remote to justify the imposition of such a draconian order.

Very fairly, the noble Viscount made the point, echoed by the Minister, that a magistrate asked to make these orders under Clause 20, for example, must think it “necessary” for certain purposes—he noted the strength of that word. The noble Viscount is right about that, of course, but I simply ask the Government to have in mind, as I am sure they do, that the purposes for which it can be necessary are expressed very broadly indeed. For example, if you look at Clause 20(4)(c), you see that it can be necessary to prevent a person

“causing or contributing to … the carrying out by any other person of activities”.

One has all the same, very indirect language that I seek to remove by Amendment 56.

My amendments leave the police with a completely workable system to deter the small group of individuals who, in the Minister’s words, are hell-bent on repeating serious disruption; there can surely be no doubt about that. Both my amendment and the amendment relating to Clause 20 are too modest to impact on that objective. That is less than some of us would have wished, and I am sure the Government and the House of Commons will be well aware of that when it goes back to them, if these amendments are carried.

I have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who does not think that my Amendment 56 goes far enough. I would love to have seen other amendments put to the vote, but I am told that politics is the art of the possible. I think the noble Lord agrees that this amendment is a great deal better than nothing and that this improvement will be greater still if Clause 20 can be removed from the Bill. I would like to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 56.

Amendments 57 to 59 not moved.

Clause 20: Serious disruption prevention order made otherwise than on conviction

Amendments 60 to 62 not moved.

Amendment 63

Moved by

63: Leave out Clause 20

Clause 21: Provisions of serious disruption prevention order

Amendment 64 not moved.

Amendment 65

Moved by

65: Clause 21, page 26, line 12, leave out paragraph (c)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment omits the provision in Part 2 of the Bill that provided for a serious disruption prevention order to include a requirement for a person to submit to electronic monitoring of their compliance with such an order.

Amendment 65 agreed.

Clause 22: Requirements in serious disruption prevention order

Amendment 66

Moved by

66: Clause 22, page 27, line 17, leave out subsection (5)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.

Amendment 66 agreed.

Clause 23: Further provision about electronic monitoring requirements

Amendment 67

Moved by

67: Leave out Clause 23

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.

Amendment 67 agreed.

Clause 25: Duration of serious disruption prevention order

Amendment 68

Moved by

68: Clause 25, page 30, line 17, leave out subsections (6) and (7)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.

Amendment 68 agreed.

Clause 28: Variation, renewal or discharge of serious disruption prevention order

Amendment 69

Moved by

69: Clause 28, page 32, line 32, at end insert—

“(8A) The court may not renew a serious disruption prevention order more than once.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides that a serious disruption prevention order may not be renewed under Clause 28 more than once.

Amendment 69 agreed.

Amendment 70

Moved by

70: Clause 28, page 32, line 33, leave out subsection (9)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.

Amendment 70 agreed.

Amendment 71 not moved.

Clause 30: Guidance

Amendment 72 not moved.

Clause 32: Data from electronic monitoring: code of practice

Amendment 73

Moved by

73: Leave out Clause 32

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.

Amendment 73 agreed.

Clause 33: Interpretation of Part

Amendment 74

Moved by

74: Clause 33, page 35, leave out lines line 22 to 24

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.

Amendment 74 agreed.

Clause 35: Extent, commencement and short title

Amendment 75

Moved by

75: Clause 35, page 36, line 22, leave out “, 13 and 23” and insert “and 13”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom that leaves out Clause 23.

Amendment 75 agreed.

Amendments 76 and 77 not moved.