Starting today, and continuing over the next two years, Netpol is asking campaigners around England and Wales to help document, analyse and share the impact of the new Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act on our freedom to protest.

Netpol wants to identify how the new legislation is used by different police forces and emerging patterns of non-compliance with their human rights obligations.

In the course of considering the new legislation in 2021, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights discovered the police were unaware of how often they used the powers they already had to restrict demonstrations.

Our benchmark is not the police powers that existed up to 2021 – these are already too open to disproportionate misuse – but the Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights.

The key questions we are seeking answers to include:

  • Are the police now imposing conditions and restrictions on protests more often and what justifications are they using?
  • How often are the police imposing conditions and restrictions on protests specifically because of an alleged risk that noise will cause ‘serious disruption’?
  • How often are the police now using powers to make arrests for breaching conditions imposed on a protest, particularly because a demonstrator “ought to have known” that restrictions were in place?
  • How often are the police now using powers to make arrests for wilful obstruction of the highway or “intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance” and how often are campaigners charged and convicted?
  • Are people discouraged from taking part in protests or actions by tougher restrictions?
  • Have new powers led to an increase in police surveillance and what form does this take?

We need you to let us know when these new powers are used and who is most targeted by them.

This includes personal stories from campaigners but also data on restrictions and arrests if you are, for example, organising a series of protests (as Just Stop Oil have done), or a demonstration (like the DSEi arms fair protests in London) over the course of a week.

We also welcome contributions from individual campaigners who have been discouraged from organising or taking part in protests because of strict conditions imposed upon them.

Campaigns that use direct action and civil disobedience tactics already know from government ministers that they are in the frame. But we are equally keen to track the treatment by police of grassroots unions like UVW and IWGB and protests by tenants’ rights groups like Acorn and the London Renters’ Union.

If you can help and have the information we need that you can share, please contact us at NetpolAdmin@protonmail.com