Proposed law which sparked Saffron Walden protests suffers House of Lords defeat

Protesters from the Green Party voice their opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Saffron Walden

Green Party protesters outside Kemi Badenoch MP's office in Saffron Walden - Credit: Will Durrant

Proposed legislation which sparked protests in Saffron Walden has suffered a defeat in the House of Lords.

Protester Trilby Roberts, a Saffron Walden town councillor, has welcomed the House of Lords' decision to throw out parts of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

She and fellow demonstrators gathered outside Kemi Badenoch MP's office on Wednesday, January 12 to express their fears that the bill would dampen the right to protest.

Mrs Badenoch said the protesters' views were not matched by other representations to her.

Town councillor Trilby Roberts helped organise the protest

Town councillor Trilby Roberts helped organise the protest - Credit: Will Durrant

Early on Tuesday (January 18), members of the House of Lords rejected plans to let English and Welsh police stop protests that are deemed too noisy or disruptive 261 votes to 166.

Peers also voted against giving the police the power to stop and search protesters "without suspicion" by 238 votes to 171.

Councillor Roberts said: "Common sense has prevailed in the House of Lords."

At last week's protest, she said: "My mother was 14 when women got the vote.

"Speaking as a female, it's really really important to have the right to protest."

Protesters, including Richard Westbrook and town councillor Trilby Roberts, outside Kemi Badenoch MP's office

Protesters, including Richard Westbrook and town councillor Trilby Roberts, outside Kemi Badenoch MP's office - Credit: Will Durrant

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Samantha Naik, of Saffron Walden Constituency Labour Party, said : "People of colour are disproportionately stopped and searched.

"Protest is an important way of showing opposition.

"How are we supposed to make our views known and be visible, if being visible is sometimes considered a crime.

"I welcome the defeats, but I still worry that the government does not respect its critics."

Pam Gadsby, of Amnesty Saffron Walden, said: "The bill would have had a hugely chilling impact on people's right to protest."

Protesters from the Green Party voice their opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Saffron Walden

Green Party protesters outside Kemi Badenoch MP's office in Saffron Walden - Credit: Will Durrant

Mrs Badenoch responded to protesters' concerns before the vote.

She said: "I'm afraid the protesters at my office, while well meaning, do not reflect the consensus of opinion in our constituency."

Mrs Badenoch added: "It is simply not true to suggest that this bill removes people's right to protest.

"The issue at hand relates to the balance between the rights of a protestor and the rights of individuals to go about their daily business.

"For example, many constituents wrote to me just a few months ago, complaining about the severe disruption and distress caused to their lives and businesses during the climate protests last year.

“I have witnessed myself in Westminster, the impact of ambulances not being able to get to a hospital due to protests.

"This cannot be right.

"The measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill are not about stopping or clamping down on right to protest but ensuring the police can better manage highly disruptive protests and maintain that balance of rights I've described."

Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden

Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden - Credit: UK Parliament

The bill is wide-ranging.

Peers voted to make misogyny a hate crime.

New rules would also tackle hare coursing and end early release for some of the most dangerous prisoners.

The bill aims to prevent and reduce serious violence.

Peers will vote on the bill as a whole on January 25.