Over the past 2 days, MPs debated the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill in the House of Commons. I was proud to be able to contribute to the debate and explain why I oppose the bill. Sadly, the bill passed it's second reading. It will now proceed to the committee and report stage before it goes on to be considered by peers in the House of Lords.
"As we have heard through this debate, the right to demonstrate peacefully underpins democracy; people have an inalienable right to be heard. The explicit aim of this Bill seems to minimise that right. Clearly, the new definition of “nuisance” could apply to almost any protest around Parliament, where the whole purpose is to get the attention of politicians such as us. I, for one, have always felt that Steve Bray, the “Stop Brexit” man, served to remind us that we live in a thriving democracy. Protest gives the public a way to reach parliamentarians which should make us proud of the country we live in. Let us not hide away from the fact that this Bill is just a knee-jerk reaction to the Extinction Rebellion protests last year, and it appears to be a deliberate curb on free speech and the right to protest peacefully.
I enjoy a very good relationship with South Wales police, and I would like to pay tribute to the officers from the neighbourhood teams across Gower, the new chief constable and the Labour police and crime commissioner. One of my biggest concerns about the new proposal is that its measures pit the public against the police, creating a wedge at a time when we should be building up trust. We all know where the buck stops, from the disgusting images we saw on Clapham Common at the weekend: it is firmly with the Home Secretary and this Government. Until the Government disclose the minutes of the Home Secretary’s meetings with the Met on Friday, we can only judge from her own social media, and it does not take a genius to work out where the blame lies.
I am sure we have all had distressing casework around the difficult issue of rape. The derisory conviction rate of 3% stems in part from the burden that is put on the police to pull together enough evidence to take to the Crown Prosecution Service. Cut after cut means that they do not have the time or the resources to do that successfully, and this has created a system that is failing women and that fails to recognise the significance to society of all aspects of violence against women. We all know that institutional misogyny exists in many organisations, but misogyny is a societal problem, and society is now at a crossroads.
Last week on the Armed Forces Bill Committee, we heard evidence about prosecuting crimes, including rape, through the military courts. Yesterday I asked the Home Secretary about the attitude of some of the armed forces towards victims of male violence and, frankly, it really is worth taking the time to read the transcript of the evidence session, because in 2021, for men with fancy titles to have such ignorant views is really distressing. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for those who serve in the police force and the armed forces, but we must make sure that they are not part of the problem and instead part of the solution. As politicians, it is our responsibility to ensure that the full force of the law is always used to protect our citizens and keep them safe."