The government is being taken to court over “unlawful” anti-protest legislation by human rights group Liberty.
The group has accused Home Secretary Suella Braverman of an “overreach of her power” after she pushed ahead with legislation to restrict lawful protest.
Police already have powers to act if they judge a protest to risk “serious disruption,” but the Tory government has sought to lower the bar for that judgement – attempts which were voted down in Parliament in January.
The basis of the legal challenge rests on the claim that the Home Secretary has used secondary legislation to by-pass the will of Parliament, something Liberty argues “violates the constitutional principle of the separation of powers because the measures have already been rejected by Parliament.”
Liberty lawyer Katy Watts said:
“We all want to live in a society where our government is open, transparent and respects the rules. The Home Secretary has side-lined Parliament to sneak in new legislation via the back door, despite not having the powers to do so.
This is yet another power grab from the government, as well as the latest in a long line of attacks on our right to protest, making it harder for the public to stand up for what they believe in.
The wording of the government’s new law is so vague that anything deemed ‘more than a minor’ disturbance could have restrictions imposed upon it. In essence, this gives the police almost unlimited powers to stop any protest the government doesn’t agree with.
This not only violates our rights, but the way it’s been done is simply unlawful.
This same rule was democratically rejected earlier this year, yet the Home Secretary has gone ahead and introduced it through other means regardless. We’ve launched this legal action to ensure this overreach is checked and that the government is not allowed to put itself above the law to do whatever it wants.
It’s really important that the government respects the law and that today’s decision is reversed immediately.”
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“The right to protest is a fundamental part of our democracy, but we must also protect the law-abiding majority’s right to go about their daily lives. That is why we have introduced a new definition of serious disruption, to give police the confidence they need to clear roads quickly. This was voted on by both the House of Commons and House of Lords, following proper parliamentary procedure.”
This article is by Matt Kerr, and was first published in the Morning Star. We thank them for the kind permission to reproduce it here.