Legislation that proposes a cure worse than a disease should give lawmakers a moratorium.
Public order bills are often thought of in the context of the M25 or the portrait frame in the National Gallery, or the environmental warriors around the Speaker’s seat in the Capitol near my home. These events have caused serious disruption to civil life and people’s businesses and should justifiably be outlawed.
I am frustrated and disappointed that Congressman Rupa Hak is using the desired purpose of the Public Order Bill to introduce undesirable amendments and criminalize more harmless and legitimate activities. To further complicate things, Stella Creeasy MP sponsored the Amendment in her 11th hour.
Her amendment would introduce a “buffer” zone around abortion clinics for peaceful protesters. Specifically, she wants to make it illegal for anyone within a 150 meter radius of an abortion clinic to interfere in the decision to access or provide an abortion. of fix broadly defines “interfering” as it applies to someone merely expressing an opinion or trying to inform someone about abortion services.
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Equally problematic is the risk that the buffer zone extends to property in public and (if covered by the buffer zone) that conversations about abortion in your front yard may become criminal. is injuring
As a Member of Parliament with a duty to act in the public interest, I have three main concerns about this proposal.
First, there are already laws in place to protect women from harassment when they attend abortion clinics. If the vigil or offer of assistance exceeds the limits of harassment or disruptive behavior, the police have public space protection orders and powers under the Local Government Act 1972, the Public Order Act 1986, and the Criminal Justice Act 1988. There are several avenues, including the ability to publish. Anti-Harassment Act 1997 and Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Public Order Act 2014. Additionally, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, enacted in April, allows police to intervene if demonstrations cause serious disruption.
Second, because the Amendment is poorly drafted, there is a risk of extending the scope of the Penal Code to a point where it should not. As I saw earlier, the Amendment could criminalize everything from simply voicing an opinion outside an abortion clinic to conversations between neighbors living in buffer zones. Are doctors who live in the buffer zone criminals for talking about abortion in the driveway if they are in public? What about midwifery colleges located in the buffer zone? Could it be a crime to teach students about the benefits and dangers of abortion? Those who pray peacefully could be imprisoned, and obnoxious rebels could walk free.
There is no distinction between activities that cause harm and activities that people simply disagree with. This is an important line, as the blunt force of criminal law must not be applied lightly or inappropriately. Do we want to start criminalizing people we simply disagree with?
The buffer zone itself is also optional.As Rupa Fuku Himself Admitted In a committee-level debate on this issue, I said, “The distance doesn’t have to be 150 meters. I just took that from Ealing.[‘s censorship zone]Because it’s a highway…” As such, this blanket ban overlooks the unique circumstances of each clinic and what constitutes a proportional response in all cases.
Importantly, it also opposes other provisions of the security bill that do not include a blanket ban on protests.
Finally, the proposed amendments have serious and unintended consequences for free speech. We take pride in a long-standing British tradition of liberalism and openness that requires the ability to challenge ideas, debate controversial opinions and participate in protests. Citizenship goes against this tradition and is unacceptable in a free society.
For these (and other) reasons, successive Interior Secretaries have argued that buffer zones are largely passive, especially when police already have powers to protect public safety and curb protests that harm others. It has held the view that it is a disproportionate response to such activities.
When doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, they first promise to do no harm. Members of Congress should administer the drug in public and vote against this amendment.
Scott Benton is a Conservative MP for the Blackpool South.
https://www.politics.co.uk/mp-comment/2022/10/17/so-called-buffer-zones-illustrate-why-politicians-must-protect-freedom-of-speech/ So-called ‘buffer zones’ show why politicians must protect free speech