Protests to be made lawful again following outcry over Sarah Everard vigil

Protests will be allowed to take place from March 29 after the Government sought to quell the fury that erupted following the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil.  Just a day after Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, urged people not to attend demonstrations, Downing Street said the ban on organised gatherings would be lifted when stay at home rules were relaxed later this month.  But the move has already sparked anger, with critics pointing out that while people will be allowed to go on marches with hundreds of others, they will still be banned from meeting groups of friends, or attending large weddings or funerals.  Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 committee, said: “This paradox highlights the importance of getting back to a world where we rely on common sense and people taking responsibility for themselves and for others.  “The important thing should be that efforts are made to limit any possible negative impact and we do not constantly tie ourselves up in complex, arbitrary and ever-changing regulations.”  Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the covid recovery group, said the move highlighted the inconsistencies in coronavirus restrictions.  “I fear the search for complete consistency in policy is forlorn. We are never going to see complete logical consistency because while they are suppressing the virus they are only allowing the minimum amount of social contact,” he said.  Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said the roadmap out of lockdown was likely to be full of inconsistencies that would lead to public confusion and make the police’s job more difficult.  He said: “This highlights what has been the problem all along. There have been so many changes to the Covid regulations now that the public are understandably confused about what is guidance and what is law and what they are allowed to do and not allowed to do.  “Allowing protests but not other gatherings is bound to lead to confusion and officers will have to deal with that.”  Police anger at lack of government support The move comes after the Met Police faced huge criticism for breaking up a vigil for Miss Everard on Clapham Common on Saturday evening.  Dame Cressida Dick, the Met Commissioner, defended the decision to enforce lockdown rules by breaking up the gathering. But she said Covid laws had placed the police in an “invidious position” and had left them trying to navigate “fiendishly difficult” regulations.  Announcing the decision to allow protests, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The stay at home order will lift on March 29, which means it is no longer illegal to leave your home save for the exemptions which we are all aware of.”  Protests will only be permitted however if they are Covid secure and organisers have submitted a risk assessment first.  One senior police leader welcomed the move but said there was anger, especially among officers in the Met, that the Government had not had their backs when needed.  The source said: “As the commissioner said, the police have been in an invidious position as they try to balance the Human Rights Act and the right to protest against the health regulations. The Government’s position that it is up to you to sort it out has not been helpful to say the least.”  Ms Patel ordered an urgent review of Scotland Yard’s actions on Saturday evening amid accusations that the police had been heavy-handed in breaking up the vigil.  The debate sparked by the abduction and killing of Miss Everard has led to calls for tougher laws to prevent violence and abuse towards women.  Calls to make misogyny a hate crime Three police and crime commissioners on Tuesday called for misogyny to be made a hate crime, to enable police to track and prosecute street abuse against women.  It means offenders could face longer sentences if the prosecution was able to persuade a judge or magistrate that the offence had been motivated by misogyny.  Katy Bourne, the PCC for Sussex has also asked the Home Secretary to introduce a new offence of sexual harassment in public, a move which is currently being considered by the Home Office.  Ms Bourne said there needed to be a “culture change” across society, with concerns about the way women were treated brought to a head by the abduction and killing of Ms Everard.  “This micro-aggression that women and girls experience every day is endemic,” she said. “We can change as a society. You need legislation to change this. I think misogyny should be a hate crime. But I would like to go further. I think we should have sexual harassment in public as a crime.”  Meanwhile, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, who holds a black belt in karate, said the public had a duty to step in if they saw a woman being harassed in the street, as he revealed that he had challenged a person in such a situation and the perpetrator had “left with his tail between his legs”.

Protests to be made lawful again following outcry over Sarah Everard vigil

Protests will be allowed to take place from March 29 after the Government sought to quell the fury that erupted following the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil. 

Just a day after Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, urged people not to attend demonstrations, Downing Street said the ban on organised gatherings would be lifted when stay at home rules were relaxed later this month. 

But the move has already sparked anger, with critics pointing out that while people will be allowed to go on marches with hundreds of others, they will still be banned from meeting groups of friends, or attending large weddings or funerals. 

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 committee, said: “This paradox highlights the importance of getting back to a world where we rely on common sense and people taking responsibility for themselves and for others. 

“The important thing should be that efforts are made to limit any possible negative impact and we do not constantly tie ourselves up in complex, arbitrary and ever-changing regulations.” 

Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the covid recovery group, said the move highlighted the inconsistencies in coronavirus restrictions. 

“I fear the search for complete consistency in policy is forlorn. We are never going to see complete logical consistency because while they are suppressing the virus they are only allowing the minimum amount of social contact,” he said. 

Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said the roadmap out of lockdown was likely to be full of inconsistencies that would lead to public confusion and make the police’s job more difficult. 

He said: “This highlights what has been the problem all along. There have been so many changes to the Covid regulations now that the public are understandably confused about what is guidance and what is law and what they are allowed to do and not allowed to do. 

“Allowing protests but not other gatherings is bound to lead to confusion and officers will have to deal with that.” 

Police anger at lack of government support

The move comes after the Met Police faced huge criticism for breaking up a vigil for Miss Everard on Clapham Common on Saturday evening. 

Dame Cressida Dick, the Met Commissioner, defended the decision to enforce lockdown rules by breaking up the gathering. But she said Covid laws had placed the police in an “invidious position” and had left them trying to navigate “fiendishly difficult” regulations. 

Announcing the decision to allow protests, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The stay at home order will lift on March 29, which means it is no longer illegal to leave your home save for the exemptions which we are all aware of.” 

Protests will only be permitted however if they are Covid secure and organisers have submitted a risk assessment first. 

One senior police leader welcomed the move but said there was anger, especially among officers in the Met, that the Government had not had their backs when needed. 

The source said: “As the commissioner said, the police have been in an invidious position as they try to balance the Human Rights Act and the right to protest against the health regulations. The Government’s position that it is up to you to sort it out has not been helpful to say the least.” 

Ms Patel ordered an urgent review of Scotland Yard’s actions on Saturday evening amid accusations that the police had been heavy-handed in breaking up the vigil. 

The debate sparked by the abduction and killing of Miss Everard has led to calls for tougher laws to prevent violence and abuse towards women. 

Calls to make misogyny a hate crime

Three police and crime commissioners on Tuesday called for misogyny to be made a hate crime, to enable police to track and prosecute street abuse against women. 

It means offenders could face longer sentences if the prosecution was able to persuade a judge or magistrate that the offence had been motivated by misogyny. 

Katy Bourne, the PCC for Sussex has also asked the Home Secretary to introduce a new offence of sexual harassment in public, a move which is currently being considered by the Home Office. 

Ms Bourne said there needed to be a “culture change” across society, with concerns about the way women were treated brought to a head by the abduction and killing of Ms Everard. 

“This micro-aggression that women and girls experience every day is endemic,” she said. “We can change as a society. You need legislation to change this. I think misogyny should be a hate crime. But I would like to go further. I think we should have sexual harassment in public as a crime.” 

Meanwhile, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, who holds a black belt in karate, said the public had a duty to step in if they saw a woman being harassed in the street, as he revealed that he had challenged a person in such a situation and the perpetrator had “left with his tail between his legs”.