Thank you for contacting me about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the right to protest.
In this country we have a long-standing tradition that people can gather together and demonstrate, and the right to protest peacefully is a fundamental part of our democracy.
As you will be aware, a national lockdown is in place. This means we must all stay at home and only leave for a small number of essential reasons as outlined in law. Everyone is required to follow these rules. It is for the police, in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether an action warrants possible criminal proceedings.
More widely and beyond the current Coronavirus protest restrictions, over recent years I have been concerned by the extensive disruption that some protests have caused. In particular, stopping people getting on with their daily lives, hampering the free press and blocking access to Parliament. I welcome the fact that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will strengthen police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect. These powers will allow the police to safely manage protests where they threaten public order and stop people from getting on with their daily lives.
It is because of this that I welcome the fact that the Government is taking action to ensure the crucial balance between the fundamental right to peaceful protest and the rights of people to get on with their daily lives is maintained. The Bill also contains vital new measures to protect women and girls, including tougher sentences for sex offenders.
This is a long awaited Bill with many measures previous announced or discussed before the Bill itself was published. Most notably those within the Sentencing White Paper, published in September last year. I welcome the fact that the Second Reading debate for the Bill was spread across two days. The Bill will now move to Committee Stage, where each clause, part, and any amendments, proposals for change, to the Bill may be debated. I am aware of the concerns raised regarding the measures in the Bill on the right to protest. I am very confident that the Bill will receive a high level of scrutiny by those elected to do just that.
Like many across the country, I am deeply shocked and saddened by the developments in this case. My thoughts continue to be with Sarah's family and loved ones at this devastating time. The Prime Minister has been clear that all the answers to this horrifying crime must be found and I send my support to all those who are investigating.
I did find the images from the vigil at Clapham Common upsetting. I understand that both the Home Secretary and Prime Minister have spoken to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police about the events at Clapham Common. A comprehensive review has been announced and it is only right that the review is undertaken in order to ensure the right lessons are learnt. I do believe it is important we understand all the information regarding the circumstances of the event before we pass judgement. I will continue to monitor developments extremely closely as I know this issue is something my constituents across South Derbyshire feel very strongly about.
Over recent days, many women have shared their stories online and these have been both powerful and concerning. Every woman in this country should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of intimidation, harassment or violence.
I do welcome the fact that the Home Secretary has committed to doing everything possible to protect women and girls from violence and harassment. This includes bringing forward a new tackling Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy later this year. You may welcome the fact that the Government reopened a call for evidence to further collect views from those with lived experience of, or views on, crimes considered as violence against women and girls. The consultation previously ran for 10 weeks from December to February. It will now remain open until 26 March 2021 and I would encourage you to take part:
Thank you again for contacting me.