by Mark Johnson
Monday, 23
May 2022
Explainer
15:46

Now the Government wants to tag protestors

The Public Order Bill is the latest power grab by this authoritarian government
by Mark Johnson
Credit: Getty

If this Parliamentary term will be remembered for anything, it will be the repeated attacks on individual freedom. From the Government that brought you vaccine passports and the Online Safety Bill, we now have a new Public Order Bill due to have its Second Reading in Parliament this afternoon. 

In a piece published in today’s Times, the Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has set out his stall with a series of arguments as to why he believes the Bill is necessary. The article contains a litany of contortions and falsehoods. In his justification for the legislation, he cites examples of protesters obstructing highways, ambulances or trains as reason to take action. What he fails to mention is that all of these acts already constitute criminal offences. But every police failure seems to have only added to a mounting justification for yet more police powers. 

The bill will introduce a vast expansion of state powers, including powers which specifically target those who are entirely innocent and not even suspected of involvement in any crime. But most astonishing of all, hidden inside it are new plans to electronically tag innocent people for attending protests. Through “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders”, also known as “Protest Banning Orders”, the state will have the powers to control the lives of people who are adjudged to risk “disruption”, where of course disruption is not defined. 

Anyone issued with one of these orders will have certain conditions placed on their day-to-day lives. This will affect where they go, who they see and even what they do online. Specifically, they can be banned from attending demonstrations or marches.

Fulfilment of these requirements will necessitate around-the-clock surveillance from authorities. In order to make this possible, the Government has said that those people subject to SDPOs may be electronically monitored using GPS tagging. We are now firmly in the territory of political surveillance.

Civil liberties have taken a battering over the last two years. Despite the fact that many of the authoritarian measures in the infamous Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill are yet to come into force, we already have the next piece of anti-protest legislation looming on the horizon.

These plans have to be stopped in their tracks. From the Labour Left to Conservative libertarians, no parliamentarian should authorise GPS ankle tags for innocent people — they cannot pretend not to see the creeping authoritarianism unfolding before our eyes.

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R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago

The Tories have long since stopped masquerading as conservatives. Now the libertarian mask seems to be slipping off too. What does this useless bunch of wets actually stand for?

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  R Wright

Corruption. They stand for corruption and contempt for the rule of law. They stand for billions of pounds bunged to cronies in PPE contracts or outright squandered through Track and Trace. They stand for breaking the anti-Covid laws they themselves inflicted on the nation, while claiming those laws required necessary sacrifices. They stand for lying to Parliament and getting away with it. They stand for Boris’ dodgy flat refurbishment and holiday to Mustique and the secrecy over who paid for either. They stand for Owen Paterson and trying to get rid of checks and balances rather than see a crony found guilty of rulebreaking.

Harry Child
Harry Child
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Johnson

you think Blair 10yrs were any better?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

The enshrining of so called ” Hate crime” and ” giving offence” in statute is arguably the most profound attack on freedom that this country has ever endured… and it appears not to be an issue with voters?

David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago

This reads like a Guardian opinion piece (and that’s not a compliment). All it tells us that the government is proposing something he doesn’t like. And that’s it.
What is the basic problem here? Why are the police reluctant to use existing laws to prosecute? What does he suggest the government should do about it?
If he tried answering these questions, his piece would be informative and educational. As it is….

Last edited 1 month ago by David McKee
Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
1 month ago
Reply to  David McKee

You are right David. The trouble with ‘get awf my lan’ an ‘Englishman’s home is my castle’ types is that they only want their freedoms protected. Ask the man who, in a fit of anguish, wished cancer on the absurd green protesters as he tried to get to hospital or the woman who nudged the idiot sit downer with her car and was prosecuted with the full force of the law how they feel. Not laptoperati lefties though and I doubt they subscribe to this site.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
1 month ago

I cannot shake off a fearful inevitability in all of this that we enable, globally. A coming-to-pass. What I haven’t yet fathomed is why? Agamben’s ‘bare life’? Eliot’s ennui?

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Or something else?

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Utter nonsense.
Covid restrictions were supported by all parties. Labour wanted to go even further.
In order to truly be an “authoritarian government”, they would have to be both a) authoritarian (they are not – it simply isn’t in Boris’ DNA) and competent (they are not).
So presumably this guy think that “protestors” should be able to inflict criminal damage and create disruption and cost to the law abiding majority in this country without restriction – or indeed bearing any of the costs they inflict ? Such people incessantly bang on about some sacred “right to protest”. Which UK law(s) specifically grant that “right” ?
I read this week that “Swampy” and co inflicted costs of UK£170m through their actions. Let me just ask this: who today complains about the Newbury Bypass ? I remember well crossing through the centre of Newbury on the old A34 in a traffic jam full of lorries. But that – of course – was “environmentally better” than the bypass.
I’m not certain that new laws are needed here. As is usually the case, the police are failing to enforce the existing laws. Which may well be adequate.
If the government does overreact, it will be because of the stupidity of people like the current “stop oil” protestors infringing on the civil liberties of ordinary, law-abiding people whose patience has been exhausted.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 month ago

We could probably list a few names that would instantly get tagged – and whether we agree with the reason for their protests or not, they should have the right to protest.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 month ago

Repeat after me “We’re doing this because we love you and care about you.” Like any abuser, they can justify it to themselves.