This week, 4Front stands with people across the country fighting to #KilltheBill. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that is being pushed through Parliament is set to increase the power of police and prisons. We know this can only lead to further harm. This Bill will further entrench racial inequity and injustice, affecting many of 4Front’s members and people across the country. Read on for an explainer about what the Bill threatens to do to our communities.
What is this bill?
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a piece of legislation this year. If it becomes law, it will entrench racial injustice, further restrict the lives of young people and curtail our fundamental right to protest.
What does it do?
The Bill is a huge piece of legislation. It includes changes that expand stop and search, restrict protest, increase prison sentences and criminalise Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities’ way of life.
Much focus has understandably been placed on the Bill’s restriction of our right to protest. Yet there are other parts that, from 4Front’s years of work supporting young people and fighting systemic racism and injustice, we believe deserve greater attention. These are:
Already isolated, the lives of our members and many others across the country will be further harmed by intrusive and racist police surveillance when what they need is support. The Bill:
Forces local councils to answer to police on youth violence, giving police the power to control and fund how schools, colleges, health centres and youth offending teams approach the issue.
Allows the police to tell teachers, youth workers and even paramedics to give up a young person’s phone to police.
Introduces ‘Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs)’. Police will be allowed to stop and search anyone with an SVRO whenever they are in public without any reason or suspicion. The orders can be renewed indefinitely and, if breached, can send someone to prison for up to two years.
When adults in support roles have to answer to police on young people’s welfare, young people are left with nowhere to turn. Persecution from repeated stop and search already scars many young people’s lives and forces them deeper into the clutches of the criminal justice system. Harsher restrictions do not solve violence, they create it.
Young people do not belong in cages. For those who are currently imprisoned, over half of whom are Black and brown, incidents of self harm, violence and suicide are at record levels, Despite this desperate situation, the Bill threatens to:
Create ‘Secure Academies’ to imprison 16-19 year olds. These are academy schools adapted to become prisons, run by private companies but supposedly for ‘charitable purpose’.
Massively expand prison sentences by getting rid of automatic release, increasing the minimum prison terms for many offences and reducing the age of those who can be given whole-life orders from 21 to 18.
Many of 4Front’s members have suffered the extreme toll that prison has on mental and physical health, as well as on education and development. Increasing the number of prisons and the amount of time young people spend in them can only ever cause harm.
We have seen mass outcry about police abuse of power in the past year, from neglect and misconduct allegations to dangerous crackdowns on protest. Despite these concerns, the Bill threatens to expand police powers and their evasion of accountability:
It doubles the prison time given for ‘assaulting an emergency worker’, which includes police.
Makes police virtually exempt from dangerous and careless driving offences whilst increasing penalties for civilians involved in the same.
At 4Front, we witness police routinely issuing ‘assault on emergency worker’ charges in incidents where the police themselves have used violent force. It is a charge well known to be used broadly, often as a cover for police’s own violence. Police abuse the powers they already have, yet the Bill places them even further above the law.
Protest is a fundamental freedom, and one that marginalised communities have frequently had to use to challenge injustice. The Bill attacks this fundamental freedom by:
Giving police powers to decide on the location, timings, noise levels and number of people allowed at protests.
Threatens protesters and protest organisers with fines and even prison time for causing ‘public nuisance’ (defined as being annoying, disruptive or inconvenient).
This can happen even if only one person is in attendance and even if protesters do not know that restrictions have been put in place.
History teaches us that protest works precisely because it is disruptive and challenging. Now the Bill threatens to make its very purpose illegal. Communities suffering racist injustice already have their protests policed extremely harshly - the Bill threatens to make this worse.
Overall, this Bill threatens to further harm our communities through an expansion of policing and prison power. At the same time, it threatens to silence our protests and campaigns for justice, peace and freedom. This is why 4Front is joining the chorus of voices working to #KillTheBill. This Saturday 1st May, 4Front will join with people across the country to fight against this Bill and its escalation of attack in our communities.