Amendment 48

Public Order Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:38 pm on 7 February 2023.

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom:

Moved by Lord Sharpe of Epsom

48: Before Clause 15, insert the following new Clause—“Imposing conditions on public processions: serious disruption(1) Section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986 (imposing conditions on public processions) is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (2) insert—“(2ZA) In considering for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) whether a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community, the senior police officer may have regard to the cumulative disruption to the life of the community resulting from—(a) the procession,(b) any public procession in England and Wales within subsection (2ZB), and(c) any public assembly in England and Wales within subsection (2ZE).(2ZB) A public procession (“Procession A”) is within this subsection if it was held, is being held or is intended to be held in the same area as the area in which the procession mentioned in subsection (2ZA)(a) (“Procession B”) is being held or is intended to be held.(2ZC) In subsection (2ZB) “area” means such area as the senior police officer considers appropriate, having regard to the nature and extent of the disruption that may result from Procession A and Procession B. (2ZD) For the purposes of subsection (2ZB), it does not matter whether or not— (a) Procession A and Procession B are organised by the same person,(b) any of the same persons take part in Procession A and Procession B,(c) Procession A and Procession B are held or are intended to be held at the same time, or(d) directions are given under subsection (1) in relation to Procession A.(2ZE) A public assembly is within this subsection if it was held, is being held or is intended to be held in the same area as the area in which the procession mentioned in subsection (2ZA)(a) is being held or is intended to be held.(2ZF) In subsection (2ZE) “area” means such area as the senior police officer considers appropriate, having regard to the nature and extent of the disruption that may result from the assembly and the procession.(2ZG) For the purposes of subsection (2ZE) it does not matter whether or not—(a) the assembly and the procession are organised by the same person,(b) any of the same persons take part in the assembly and the procession,(c) the assembly and the procession are held or are intended to be held at the same time, or(d) directions are given under section 14(1A) (imposing conditions on public assemblies) in relation to the assembly.(2ZH) In considering for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) whether a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community—(a) all disruption to the life of the community—(i) that may result from the procession, or(ii) that may occur regardless of whether the procession is held (including in particular normal traffic congestion),is to be taken into account, and(b) “the community” means any group of persons that may be affected by the procession, and it does not matter whether or not all or any of those persons live or work in the vicinity of the procession.”(3) In subsection (2A) (examples of serious disruption)—(a) before paragraph (a) insert—“(za) it may, by way of physical obstruction, result in the prevention of, or a hindrance that is more than minor to, the carrying out of daily activities (including in particular the making of a journey),”,(b) in paragraph (a), for “a significant delay to” substitute “the prevention of, or a delay that is more than minor to,”, and(c) in paragraph (b), for “a prolonged disruption” substitute “the prevention, or a disruption that is more than minor,”.(4) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) Subsection (3B) applies where—(a) a public procession is being held or is intended to be held in England and Wales,(b) it appears to the senior police officer that there is a connection between the procession and—(i) one or more other public processions that are being held or that are intended to be held in England and Wales, or(ii) one or more public assemblies that are being held or that are intended to be held in England and Wales, (c) the senior police officer reasonably believes that one of the conditions in subsection (1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the procession mentioned in paragraph (a), and(d) the senior police officer reasonably believes—(i) in relation to a procession mentioned in paragraph (b)(i), that one of the conditions in subsection (1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the procession, or(ii) in relation to an assembly mentioned in paragraph (b)(ii), that one of the conditions in section 14(1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the assembly.(3B) The senior police officer may—(a) give directions under subsection (1) in relation to—(i) the procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a), and(ii) any procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(b)(i) in relation to which the condition in subsection (3A)(d)(i) is met, and(b) give directions under section 14(1A) in relation to any assembly mentioned in subsection (3A)(b)(ii) in relation to which the condition in subsection (3A)(d)(ii) is met.(3C) Directions given in accordance with subsection (3B) may impose the same or different conditions in relation to different processions and assemblies.(3D) In subsections (3A) and (3B) “the senior police officer” means—(a) where the public procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) is being held, the police officer responsible for managing the police response to the procession, and(b) where the public procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) is intended to be held, the chief officer of police.(3E) A direction given by a chief officer of police by virtue of subsection (3D)(b) must be given in writing.””Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause amends section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986 (imposing conditions on public processions) to make provision about when a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community. The amendments also allow for conditions to be imposed in relation to connected processions and assemblies.

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My Lords, we now turn back to government Amendments 48 to 51, which relate to the definition of serious disruption within Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 and the reasonable excuse defence with regard to the offences of wilful obstruction of the highway and public nuisance. These were debated by the House last week, so I intend to keep this brief.

Your Lordships will recall the compelling speeches made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in defence of the amendments he had tabled. I am sure I speak for many in expressing regret that his amendments were so narrowly defeated. The Government’s amendments follow the noble and learned Lord’s by proposing many of the same amendments for other aspects of public order legislation.

In summary, government Amendments 48 and 49 alter the definition of serious disruption in Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. They do this by, first, carrying over the definition of “serious disruption” suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. Secondly, they define the meaning of “community”. Thirdly, they will enable the police to consider the absolute impact of the disruption caused to the public. Fourthly, they allow the police to consider the cumulative disruption caused by protests. Fifthly and finally, they allow the officer responsible for managing the protest to place conditions on more than one connected procession or assembly.

Government Amendments 50 and 51 are similarly inspired by the reasonable excuse amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. Amendment 50 carves protest out of the offence of public nuisance, while Amendment 51 carves protest out of the lawful excuse of the offence of wilfully obstructing the highway. However, recognising that the offence is a low-level one, we do not carve it out in its entirety. Instead, the amendment removes protest from the reasonable excuse only where more than serious disruption is caused.

The Government’s amendments represent sensible, pragmatic changes that not only respond to a request from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service for further legislative clarity on the police’s powers to manage public processions and assemblies but bring aspects of public order legislation into line with recent case law. I would therefore like to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 240, Noes 254.

Division number 2 Public Order Bill - Report (2nd Day) — Amendment 48

Aye: 238 Members of the House of Lords

No: 252 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Amendment 48 disagreed.

Amendment 49 not moved.