Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill - repeals SOCPA ss 132-138, but substitutes new enabling powers in a 250 metre Area around Parliament Square

The Labour Government has today published its long awaited

Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill

The Good News - the abhorrent and undemocratic requirement for Prior Written Authorisation by the Police and arbitrary Restrictions on small or spontaneous demonstrations, near Parliament seems to be on its way to being repealed.

Part 4

Public order

32 Demonstrations etc in the vicinity of Parliament

(1) Omit sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15) (which regulate demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament).

Hurray !!

However, do not get too excited because:

(2) Schedule 4 (which inserts new powers into Part 2 of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) etc) has effect.

This amendment to the Public Order Act 1986 is even longer and just as complicated as the SOCPA legislation it replaces.

It does not spell out any of the details, as it is enabling legislation, allowing for the creation of arbitrary laws via Statutory Instrument Orders, which can only be accepted or rejected by Parliament, and not amended in any way.

The main difference seems to be the "area around Parliament", defined as no more than 250 metres in a straight line from the nearest point in Parliament Square, rather than the still current Designated Area of up to 1 kilometre (the current Designated Area does not extend as far as that in all directions).

Unlike the current Designated Area, this smaller Area around Parliament would exclude the front entrance of the Metropolitan Police HQ at New Scotland Yard to the west, the MI5 Security Service Thames House building to the south, extend only across Westminster Bridge but no further than the former Country Hall to the east, but would still cover most of Whitehall to the north, including the Whitehall and Horseguards Road entrances to Downing Street and the Whitehall entrance to the Ministry of Defence, if the full 250 metres is designated.

See Google Maps / StreetView

Schedule 4 -- Amendment to Part 2 of the Public Order Act 1986 etc

Schedule 4

Section 32

Amendment to Part 2 of the Public Order Act 1986 etc

Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64)

1 After section 14 insert--

"14ZA Access to and from the Palace of Westminster

(1) This section applies in relation to--

(a) a public procession which is being held (or is intended to be held) where the route (or the proposed route) is wholly or partly within the area around Parliament (see section 14ZB),

or

(b) a public assembly which is being held, or is intended to be held, wholly or partly within that area.

(2) The senior police officer may give directions imposing on the persons organising or taking part in the procession or assembly such conditions as, in the officer's reasonable opinion, are necessary for ensuring that the specified requirements (see subsection (3)) are met.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument specify requirements that must be met in relation to the maintaining of access to and from the Palace of Westminster.

(4) They may include (for example) requirements as to the number or location of entrances to the Palace of Westminster--

(a) which must be kept open, and

(b) to and from which there must be access routes for pedestrians and vehicles through the area around Parliament.

(5) An order under this section may confer discretions on the senior police officer.

What "discretions" exactly ?

(6) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(7) In relation to a public procession, the conditions that may be imposed under this section include conditions as to the route of the procession or prohibiting it from entering any public place specified in the directions.

(8) In relation to a public assembly, the conditions that may be imposed under this section are limited to conditions as to the place at which the assembly may be (or continue to be) held, its maximum duration and the maximum number of persons who may constitute it.

No special restrictions on banners, posters, tshirts, campaign badges etc.?

No special restrictions on loudspeakers, megaphones, sound systems etc. ?

How are multiple simultaneous demonstrations by individuals or small groups, some of whom may be opposed to each other, to be policed ?

(9) "The senior police officer" is to be construed in accordance with section 12(2) or 14(2) (as the case may be); and directions are to be given in accordance with section 12(3) or 14(3) if applicable.

(10) Subsections (4) to (10) of section 12 or subsections (4) to (10) of section 14 (as the case may be) apply in relation to conditions imposed under this section as they apply in relation to conditions imposed under that section.

(11) Nothing in this section limits what can be done under section 12(1) or 14(1).

i.e. the "normal" Public Order Act 1986 powers which apply throughout England and Wales.

14ZB The area around Parliament

(1) For the purposes of section 14ZA "the area around Parliament" means the area specified as such by the Secretary of State by order made by statutory instrument.

(2) The area may be specified by description, by reference to a map or in any other way.

(3) No point in the area specified may be more than 250 metres in a straight line from the point nearest to it in Parliament Square.

The Ministry Of Justice, just like the Home Office before them, does not appear to have heard of the third dimension.

Since, unlike the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 sections 132 to 138, there is no reference to "highways and pavements" etc., 250 metres in a straight line also impinges on the London Underground Westminster Tube Station and the Jubilee, District and Circle lines, which pass under it.

Similarly, it also impinges on the River Thames (below the Palace of Westminster), and on the airspace above the Area around Parliament.Square.

(4) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

14ZC Special provision if a House meeting outside Palace of Westminster

(1) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument specify, for the purposes of this section--

(a) a building situated outside the Palace of Westminster, and

(b) an area, no point in which is more than 250 metres in a straight line from the point nearest to it on the specified building.

(2) The area may be specified by description, by reference to a map or in any other way.

(3) The following subsections apply in relation to--

(a) a public procession which is being held (or is intended to be held) where the route (or the proposed route) is wholly or partly within the specified area, or

(b) a public assembly which is being held, or is intended to be held, wholly or partly within the specified area.

(4) The senior police officer may give directions imposing on the persons organising or taking part in the procession or assembly such conditions as, in the officer's reasonable opinion, are necessary for ensuring that the specified requirements (see subsection (5)) are met.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (4) the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument specify requirements that must be met in relation to the maintaining of access to and from the specified building during any week in which the specified building is, or is planned to be, used by a House of Parliament for the purpose of holding meetings of the House or of any of its committees (including joint committees).

(6) "Week" means any period of 7 days starting with a Sunday.

(7) The requirements may include (for example) requirements as to the number or location of entrances to the specified building--

(a) which must be kept open, and

(b) to and from which there must be access routes for pedestrians and vehicles through the specified area.

(8) An order under subsection (5) may confer discretions on the senior police officer.

(9) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(10) Subsections (7) to (11) of section 14ZA apply for the purposes of this section as they apply for the purposes of that section."

Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 (c. 40)

2 In paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 (which is about consents for the operation of loudspeakers) omit "or of section 137(1) of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005".

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15)

3 In the Table in section 175(3) (transitional provision relating to offences omit the entries relating to section 136.

Serious Crime Act 2007 (c. 27)

4 Omit paragraph 64 of Schedule 6.

Transitional provision

5 (1) The public assemblies in relation to which section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) applies by virtue of the repeal of section 132(6) of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 by section 32(1) of this Act include (in particular) public assemblies which started, or were being organised, before section 32(1) comes into force.

(2) The public processions and assemblies in relation to which sections 14ZA to
14ZC of the Public Order Act 1986 apply include (in particular) public processions and assemblies which started, or were being organised, before paragraph 1 of this Schedule comes into force.

(3) In this paragraph references to public processions and assemblies include references to processions and assemblies which are intended to be held.

Note the words "include (in particular) public assemblies which started, or were being organised, before section 32(1) comes into force." i.e. Brian Haw's long running peace camp demonstration / public assembly will be covered retrospectively.

The criminal penalties will now be under the Public Order Act 1986.

N.B. the existing Public Order Act 1986 already covers the 250 metres Area around Parliament Square, so there must be something sneaky being planned for the Secondary Legislation Statutory Instrument Orders, which this Clause and Schedule would enable.


Parliament Protest Web Button

Either save this image and link to us, or copy the HTML code below into your web page or template:

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Click here for a larger version of this web campaign button graphic.

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Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Protest Organisers

The hints and tips below are just as important to anybody organising a peaceful Protest near to Parliament Square, as they are to other people who might come under UK Government or Multinational Corpotation:

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009
Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

The Convention is being held in the Logan Hall and adjoining rooms at the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury, central London.

Address:

The Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
London
WC1H 0AL

There are video linked screenings or other parallel meetings being held across the UK in Belfast. Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff and Manchester.

Convention on Modern Liberty blog

Campaign Button Links

NO2ID  Campaign
NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

link to www.peopleincommon.org

People in Common - weekly Picnics etc. in Parliament Square, every Sunday at about 1pm.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

cfoi_150.jpg
Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Please help us to find this man! He was arrested(?) in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005

This man was one of the very first people arrested in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005, but he has apparently disappeared.

link to SilentProtest.org.uk
Silent Protest - a web photo gallery "encouraging people to stage a virtual, government un-sanctioned protest. All you need to do is get a picture of yourself, or your friends, within the protest free zone. Assume the pose (hand over mouth), aim and click."

repeal-SOCPA-info_150.gif
. repeal-SOCPA.info - useful background briefings for the Managing Protest around Parliament public consultation, and model letters to MPs etc.

About this blog

This web blog has been set up as an information resource and discussion area (please be polite in the comments) to help organise resistance to the restrictions on peaceful democratic demonstrations and protests, which have been enacted by law, in a wide Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

It appears that in order to remove the peace protestor Brian Haw, who had been demonstrating continuously in Parliament Square, day and night, for over 10 years,(literally until his death in June 2011), the NuLabour Government overreacted, and granted themselves draconian and arbitrary powers, which affected the rights of all individual British citizens to lobby their Members of Parliament, or to walk in a vast Designated Area wearing a "political slogan" T-shirt, badge, rubber wristband etc. without first seeking prior written permission from the Police.

This is an affront to democracy and is not justified even on any spurious "climate of fear" alleged "security" grounds.

N.B. SOCPA ss128-132 is now repealed and replaced with less restictive laws, but there are still some peculiar restrictions and bylaws on protests around Parliament Square.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your news, views or suggestions about this blog, and about the issues it highlights.

info @ParliamentProtest [dot] org [dot].uk

For those of you who want to send us information in confidence, here is our PGP Public Encryption Key

A low volume e-mail list (with a daily digest option) has been set up for those of you who /want to share ideas about how the restrictions on demonstrations without prior written permission etc. can be resisted legally and peacefully:

parliamentsquare-subscribe@ yahoogroups.com

Syndicate this site (XML):

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was rushed through, "on the nod", with minimal debate, during the undemocratic "wash up" process at the end of the last Parliament when the General Election had been called.

The bulk of the Act deals with the setting up of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but there are also sections such as:

Section 110 Powers of Arrest

From 1st January 2006 this section makes any offence, no matter how minor, into an arrestable offence. Arrests by the police these days can mean taking 10 fingerprints and two palm prints, a DNA tissue sample and processing it into a digital "DNA fingerprint", forcing you to remove any facial coverings, (even those worn for religous purposes) to take photographs of your face etc. All of these items of personal data can then be retained forever, even if you are not charged, or any charges against you are dropped, or if you go to court and are found not guilty.

These new powers are regulated by the new statutory Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice G (.pdf)

Section 128 Trespass on a Designated Site - e.g. Crown Property or National Security

Sections 132 to 138 Demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament - the controversial restrictions in detail.

The Public Whip website has details of how the Members of the House of Commons voted on these controversial clauses.

Brian Haw

Veteran peace protestor Brian Haw was physically camped out in Parliament Square since 2nd June 2001 until his death in June 2011

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 sections 132 to 138 Designatd Area law seem to have been written to try to specifically suppress his protests, although, through sheer incompetence, the Government found that Brian Haw himself was initially exempt from some of it, since his protest started before the stupidly worded repressive legislation came into force, although a later High Court Appeal, at public exepnse, did apply the law to him.

See Parliament Square website for news and support details.

Write to politicians

Write To Them - identify and contact your local councillors, Members of Parliament, devolved Assembly members and Members of the European Parliament

You can also write to the Home Secretary David Blunkett Charles Clarke John Reid Jacqui Smith Alan Johnson Theresa May

You can send an email public.enquiries@ homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk or a letter to:

Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP
Home Secretary
c/o Direct Communications Unit
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Home Office Contact Us page

Designated Area

The current Designated Area is set out in:

Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005

Read more about the Designated Area in our category archive.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 132 to 138 have been repealed by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 Part 3 on the Statute Book, but not yet Commenced by Order). This replaces the Designated Area with a much smaller Controlled Area - just Parliament Square Gardens and the surrounding pavements.

Mass Lone Demonstrations

Comedian Mark Thomas's website has details of Mass Lone Demonstrations which legally show up the absurdity of this law, and the bureaucracy involved in enforcing it. These multiple independent one person demonstrations take place on the third Wednesday of the month, from 5pm - 7.30pm within the Designated Area (often in Parliament Square, but not exclusively so)

Meet on the second Wednesday of each month outside Charing Cross police station (located at Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP - see the map) any time between: 5.30 pm -7.30pm to hand in your Metropolitan Police SOCPA forms (download the optional Word or PDF forms from the Metroplitan Police) or your own personal Written Applications for Prior Permission.

Regular Protests in Parliament Square

Parliament Square - supporting the long running, 24/7, peace protest by Brian Haw in Parliament Square

Global Women's Strike who held "open mike" loudspeaker protests every Wednesday for over two and a half years, which are now banned.

London Critical Mass - group bicycle ride on the last Friday of every month, for the last 10 years, which often strays into the Designated Area.

The People's Commons Meeting / Tea Party / Picnic-Protest is now meeting every Sunday afternoon starting at 1 for 1.30pm on the Green in Parliament Square. wiki - new website PeopleInCommon.org

Website Links

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management, systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006.

Metropolitan Police Service

Metropolitan Police Authority - meant democratically to supervise the Metropolitan Police Service

Independent Police Complaints Commission

United Kingdom Parliament - Palace of Westminster, House of Lords, House of Commons etc.

Booking Parliament Square - Greater London Authority booking forms, terms and conditions for filming and photography for Parliament Square - "The GLA does not grant permission for demonstration, rallies and public meetings on Parliament Square Gardens".

They Work For You - a more user friendly version of the House of Commons Hansard

Pledgebank pledge:

"I will form part of a human chain around the Westminster no protest zone but only if 6,000 other people will join in."

Repeal-SOCPA-Info has useful briefing material for the Public Consultation into the laws restricting demonstrations, marches and assemblies, sample letters to MPs etc..

Blog Links

Spy Blog - Privacy and Security and Civil liberties campaigning

Mayor of London Blog - unnofficial comments on the Mayor of London and Greater London Assembly

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol at £1 per litre ! Protest !

Bloggerheads graphics of the 1km zone and the actual Designated Area

Charity Sweet - who has been harrassed for reading a copy of the Independent newspaper outside Downing Street etc.

BBC Travel Jam Cams

BBC Radio London has some links to Traffic Monitoring CCTV cameras, which they publish every 5 or 10 minutes, not usually in real time.

Whenever there is an "incident" or a march or demonstration, these online images are deliverately censored i.e. "not available for operational reasons", This is despite the images being of too low a resolution to identify anybody, and, the effect of not diverting traffic away from the incident, which should be the whole point of the online Traffic Cam images in the first place.

Whitehall / Parliament Square - this camera view sometimes shows Brian Haw's peace camp, and the "temporary" GLA fence around Parliament Square Gardens (removed >then rebuilt)

Northumberland Avenue / Victoria Embankment

Trafalgar Square (on the edge of the Designated Area)