Case study The Crime and Sentencing Bill 2022

The government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords over its plans to clamp down on disruptive and noisy protesters.

Opposition peers voted against a range of measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, with Labour calling some of the plans "outrageous".

Peers also voted to make misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales.

No 10 said it was disappointed peers voted against measures to combat the "guerilla tactics" of some protesters.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill aims to make wide-ranging changes across the criminal justice system in areas including police powers, judicial procedures and offender rehabilitation.

The government lost 14 votes in the House of Lords on the detail of the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill on Monday 18th January 2022, to add to the five previous defeats in earlier debates.

Most of these are reversible in the Commons because they represent changes to the bill, but the government was also trying to add in some changes of its own, introducing a series of new public order offences aimed at preventing a recurrence of last year's Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion protests. Because the Lords blocked these from becoming part of the bill, they won't be sent back to the Commons.

Labour had approached this issue warily, conscious that they could be accused of allowing the rights of protesters to trump the rights of ordinary people to go about their lives, so they proposed what they regarded as a more focused alternative - but ended up helping vote down the government's new clauses as unacceptable on civil liberties grounds.

My best guess is that the government's proposals will resurface as a free standing public order bill, when the new Parliamentary year begins in April.

Other amendments on subjects like misogyny, noise at demonstrations, drink-spiking, the Police duty of candour, the repeal of the Vagrancy Act and many more, will have to be agreed by MPs.

This is what's known as "Parliamentary ping pong", in which a bill bounces between the Commons and the Lords until both have agreed on its final form, and it can run on for quite a while.

It will have to be completed before the end of the current parliamentary session, expected in late March or April. 2022

The list of government defeats

Peers voted against the government's plans to:

  • create a new offence of "locking on", a tactic used by protesters to make it difficult to remove them, carrying with it a penalty of up to a year in prison

  • create a new offence of obstructing the construction or maintenance of major transport works

  • make it an offence for a person to interfere with the use or operation of key national infrastructure, including airports, the road network, railways and newspaper printers

  • allow police officers to stop and search a person or vehicle if it was suspected an offence was planned, such as causing serious disruption or obstructing major transport works

  • allow police to stop and search anyone at a protest "without suspicion"

  • allow individuals with a history of causing serious disruption to be banned by the courts from attending certain protests

Peers voted for new amendments to the bill that would:

  • scrap the power to impose conditions on protest marches judged to be too noisy

  • protect Parliament Square as a place to protest

  • require police officers to tell the truth in public inquiries

  • demand an urgent review into the prevalence of drink-spiking offences

  • restrict the imposition of tougher sentences for blocking a highway to major routes and motorways (rather than all roads)

  • scrap the Vagrancy Act 1824, which makes it a crime to beg as well as sleep rough

  • make misogyny a hate crime by giving the courts the power to treat misogyny as an aggravating factor in any crime and increase sentences accordingly