A terrifying attack on our civil liberties is going through Parliament

9:30 am - August 6th 2013

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by Jonathan Lindsell

A piece of legislation that is going through Parliament is rather alarming. It has passed ‘committee stage’, meaning it’s close to becoming law.

It is all the closer, since no major media organisations have made a peep about it. And the Liberal Democrats haven’t complained, so presumably they are down with it.

Either way, we failed to notice progress of the daunting Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

– The replacement of the ASBO will be harsher and easier for the authorities to serve
– The replacement of the Dispersal Order will be harsher, longer lasting and easier for the authorities to serve
– These, together with recent government moves (below) represent a genuine threat to UK freedoms, not least the right to protest and right to assembly

What’s in the bill?
The bill is massively wide, and its whole contents are not discussed here. The two most worrisome things are:
– Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs)
– Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs)

IPNAs will replace the Daily Mail’s old favourite, the ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order), which was widely abused by the authorities and often failed to do much good. The government’s justification is that the new law will simplify New Labour’s populist anti-chav measure.

This version, however, is worse. ASBOs could only be issued when a yob/hoodie/hoodlum had done something wrong – caused ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.

As Scriptonite Daily points out, IPNAs require only that you might ‘engage in behaviour capable of causing annoyance’. This is FEROCIOUSLY WIDE AND FUZZY.

Public Spaces Protection Orders
These are theoretically designed to stop people letting their dogs shit everywhere or to keep loud drunks off quiet streets. But PSPOs suffer from the same hopelessly wide scope as IPNAs. They can pop up, pre-emptively, to halt ‘activities carried on or likely to be carried on in a public place will have or have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’ [Clause 55, 2., a-b].

PSPOs can apply for three years, then be renewed, and renewed, and renewed. According to The Manifesto Club, PSPOs will be easier to serve than current alcohol protection zones, and can be legally targeted at specific groups (e.g. ethnicities, protesters, horse racing enthusiasts). If you breach a PSPO you are subject to an on-the-spot fine of up to £100 which could go up to £1,000 on conviction, plus £500 if booze is involved (Summary part 152).

What are the implications?
It’s pretty obvious that these powers would give the police and local authorities a terrifying power to disperse peaceful protest movements. Worse, the filth could ban you pre-emptively, effectively ruining your right to protest and your right to assembly.

This is especially shit in the light of two related developments. Edward Snowden’s data-spying leaks have shown us that the UK government, MI5 and the police have access to virtually all our internet use and history. And have the capacity to sift it all. And have the precedent to suggest they will abuse such a power. This means I’m pretty afraid of one or other arm of government spying on (legal) discussions of political protest or opposition, then banning the people or groups planning to take to the streets (legally).

I’m also worried by the general climate the government is setting in the past few months. If it isn’t the TEMPORA/SocMint spying revelations, or abuses against Steven Lawrence’s family and friends, then there’s:
Racist Van and the Home Office’s Hunger Games style live-feed of migrant arrests and asylum denials
– Cameron’s Porn Crusade [My analysis and links here]
– The Tories’ attempts to make it virtually impossible to take employers to court
– Chris Grayling’s universally-panned smash and grab job on the criminal justice system…
– And legal aid…
– And appeals
Pipeline legislation that will allow serious criminals to be kept in 5” x 5” cages, out in the open, with signs encouraging members of the public to masturbate or defecate onto them.

What can I do?
You could sign some petitions. There’s this Government website one and this Change.org one. Might as well hit up the 38degrees.com petition against TEMPORA while you’re at it.

Better – write to your MP. Write to the MPs you think tend to stand for fluffy things like ‘justice’ and ’rights’ and ask what the fuck is going on. Ask why, in committee, the words ‘protest’ and ‘assembly’ did not come up. Ask whether this thundercunting debacle is possibly just an honest, massive oversight.

A longer version of this post was published here.
Jonathan is a writer and Civitas thinktank researcher.

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Reader comments

“Pipeline legislation that will allow serious criminals to be kept in 5” x 5” cages, out in the open, with signs encouraging members of the public to masturbate or defecate onto them.”
Is that a hyperbolic joke?
I’m honestly not sure at this point.

1. Cylux

That should suit you down to the ground

3. Jonathan Lindsell

1. Cylux

Yeah, hyperbole. My original article was a bit more…rabid

@2 Not really, it’s generally a measure of how civilized a society is by how it treats those who have broken it’s laws.

I probably agree with much of this – your post that is, not the legislation – but please, unless you are under 16, avoid the lazy references to the Daily Mail.

Don’t worry, you will still be able to go to the European Courts of Human Rights to have parts of this legislation overturned.

Oh, wait, you won’t be very soon… Poor Britain!

This legislation does create cause for concern. Its provisions are very wide ranging and increase the powers of various public bodies and persons (including Headteachers). But the tone of this article is not conducive to a sensible debate about the powers given in the Bill. For example,the dispersal powers in the Bill will prove attractive to many (most?) members of the public who are subject to gangs of youths creating mayhem in their vicinity. The fact that such powers may also be used to disperse peaceful protests would be of little concern. The key is to get necessary safeguards into the Bill before it becomes law that will require cool advocacy – not shrill and foul mouthed style of this article. For those who wish to know more about this, I would recommend the Blog of the legal commentator Obiter J. Google Law and Lawyers to get there.

Can we have a blanket IPNA against the whole of the tory party – they are a nuisance and very annoying after all.

Surely it would be of benefit to another political party that gets in power to overturn the worst prohibitions allowing peaceful protest; it’s of their best interest for the interest to be able to protest again should they then lose power again back to these rightwing nutjobs.

I’m hungry – is my soylent green tea ready yet???

I remember about 2004-5 when the blogosphere was full of ‘decent leftists’ loudly proclaiming that any true socialist should love ASBOs and every single bit of authoritarian rubbish Blair and Blunkett came up with.


I’m glad those gits fell off the face of the Earth.

The language of this piece should tell you all you need to know about the view of the police and authorities the authour has.

11. Labour Supporter

Once again the middle class radicals here dismiss the problems that working class people face from an antisocial minority, whether its illegal immigrants or the persistent nuisance “famiies” making lives a misery on our estates. The government is to be applauded for tackling this problem with vigour. Better still would the deny these people recourse to public assistance, whether housing or benefits, until they learn to appreciate the need to get along with their neighbours and society at large. Making a very sorry example of a few of the worst scum who live on my estate in Tottenham would be a great start!

@nulabour supporter
Get real. The last place this law would be enforced is on the sink estate/ghetto. It is to maliciously criminalise protests against the neoliberal coup dètat you ignore!

Didn’t know about this but am very encouraged.

Once again creates an excellent dichotomy.

The Left and Labour coming out to defend anti-social law breakers (along with illegal immigrants recently?!).

Is there any single occasion you guys will stand up for law abiding tax payers (on principal, I mean)?

Regardless, when Ed loses the next election – just remember it was probably your ‘faction’ that did the bulk of the damage in the South.


You are supporting the wrong party.

The modern Labour Party will NEVER reclaim our streets (and estates) from anti-social/criminal elements.

Just look at the way so many on the Left elevated the armed drug dealer Mark Duggan to the status of Nelson Mandela.

Look at the way the Guardian printed umpteen articles on the 2011 riots which presented the thieves and arsonists as the real victims.

Look at the objections we have seen to the mere enforcement of British immigration law.

There is a fundamental culture clash taking place right now. And by voting for Labour, you are helping the wrong side.

At least vote UKIP if you can’t bring yourself to vote Conservative. Because I pretty much guarantee, the modern Labour Party (and its Union paymasters and activists) hold your opinions in contempt.

15. Robin Levett

@Tory #14:

Just look at the way so many on the Left elevated the armed drug dealer Mark Duggan to the status of Nelson Mandela.

Name some.

16. mike cobley

Honestly, there those among us who welcome with open arms any legislation which creates an iron-fisted police state. Dissent? Right to protest? Right to publically demonstrate against government policy? Sod that – let’s have a good, docile, obedient country.

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