Public Order Bill

If you are interested in the UK remaining a democracy then it is essential that you learn about the Public Order Bill, which is currently (early June 2022) at committee stage. Here’s Adam Wagner (Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers) – bold emphasis added:

“In this country, our tradition is that protest is something that is permitted. It is not seen as a social evil; it is seen as a social good. A certain level of disruption is inevitable in any successful protest. That is how you get people’s attention: you disrupt, and you put yourself in front of them. That is not a new thing; it is very old. It goes back to the suffragettes, who I am sure many people giving evidence will mention. Every social movement in history that has a protest element has always used an element of disruption…”

“For the most part, the mechanisms that the Bill puts in place essentially criminalise peaceful protest. That is what the Bill does: it criminalises peaceful protest in a way that has not been done before. It treats peaceful protest like knife crime, drug dealing or terrorism. I do not mean that metaphorically; I mean it directly. Serious crime disruption orders and terrorism disruption orders stop people doing something in future—those are the kinds of methods we have used to disrupt terrorism, knife crime, drug dealing and gang violence. I have been involved in lots of cases involving those kinds of orders. If the Bill is used by police—they will be under pressure to use it in particular instances—the end result will be lots more protesters in the criminal courts, in very long and complicated trials that involve looking at the proportionality of the protest in question, as we saw with the Colston statue case. But it will be 100 times more, because all these offences have a reasonable excuse […]. I think that is one thing you will see. The other thing you will see is a lot more protesters in prison—and a lot more peaceful protesters in prison.”

– Adam Wagner (Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers), evidence provided to the Public Order Bill Committee (9 June 2022)