House of Lords
The Lords has defeated the government a total of six times during the Public Order Report Stage. We voted:
· to introduce protections for journalists, legal observers and others monitoring protests from the police’s use of powers related to protests.
· to remove expansion of suspicion less stop and search
The Lords rarely has the chance to delete laws completely, but because this government is so chaotic they introduced late amendments, it means that peers have the final say. To overrule us, the government has to bring an entirely new Bill. These two draconian laws were rejected.
· government amendments that would have removed the reasonable excuse (a topical debate or issue) defence from the offences of wilful obstruction of the highway and public nuisance.
· government amendments that would have given police powers to pre-emptively restrict protests, such as blocking roads and slow marching, or where individual protests were seen as linked (pre-crime).
Last week, the Lords voted to:
· raise the threshold before police can intervene in protests. So, it means a stricter definition of “serious disruption” will be required to prevent protests
· allow defendants to use “an issue of current debate” as a reasonable defence in court when charged with offences such as locking-on, tunnelling and blocking roads
. removed a clause allowing a magistrates court to issue a serious disruption order in cases other than as part of a conviction.
The Public Order Bill remains a horrendous piece of legislation and the government will seek to overturn the Lords’ amendments where it can. However, it shows the importance of a second chamber and the need for a new democratically elected body that has a stronger say in reviewing and revising laws.