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New law to give cops blanket dispersal powers

Another year – another crackdown on civil liberties. The appallingly derivativley named Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Bill (somebody at the Home Office must have a bit of imagination surely?) proposes that the police be given the power to clear areas of people they “reasonably suspect” are engaged in conduct that contributes to “ members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed”.

A dispersal order can be issued by any officer of the rank of Inspector or above and lasts for a period of 48 hrs. It allows the police to specify how and when people must diperse. To not disperse will of course be an arrestable offence with a potential three months imprisonment attached.The new laws will also give the cops the power to seize items used in the conduct of 'anti-social behaviour' as well as taking those aged under 16 to 'a place of safety'.

In the past – when it came to controlling protests and public gatherings the police relied on the Public Order Act sections 12 and 14 and while misuse of these acts was commonplace the threshold for the triggering of then powers was 'serious violence, serious criminal damage ot serious disruption to the life of the community'. This meant that at least there was a valid defence available if you were nicked on a peaceful demo.

Anti-social behaviour can be defined by the police to mean almost anything they want. It's going to be draconian enough in the context of organised protest but imagine how it's going to be deployed in the inner cities This new law moves us one step closer to the no doubt soon to be unveiled “Crime, Disorder and listen just do what yer fuckin' told Act 2014”

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Twitter: @SchNEWS