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Plaid Cymru hit out at ‘aggressive crackdown on the right to protest’ by Home Secretary

15 Mar 2021 3 minutes Read
Priti Patel (left) by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0). Liz Saville Roberts MP by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0).

Plaid Cymru has hit out at what it calls an aggressive “crackdown on the right to protest” by the Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The party’s Westminster leader and spokesperson on justice, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has warned that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill introduces a raft of significant changes to the criminal justice system, including new powers to restrict protest and to expand stop and search.

She said the Bill will “exacerbate the existing inequalities in our criminal justice system” and called for powers over justice to be devolved to Wales in order to create a “more humane and more accountable justice system.”

The Second Reading of the Bill, which Plaid Cymru’s MPs will be voting against, will take place in the House of Commons today.

It comes in the wake of a storm about the response of the Metropolitan Police to a vigil in south London, held in the memory of Sarah Everard, in which several women were handcuffed and taken away.

During the debate in the House of Commons, Liz Saville Roberts will argue that the Bill, will exacerbate the existing inequalities in our criminal justice system, will put pressure on Welsh services and further complicate the interaction between devolved and non-devolved policies.

She will also argue that it shows more than ever that the devolution of powers over justice is essential to deliver a fairer system.

The Plaid Cymru MP says that instead of providing a “joined-up approach that properly integrates justice with health, education and social policy”, the Bill will “place further strain on the system in Wales.”

‘Step backwards’ 

Liz Saville Roberts will say: “The Bill’s harsher approach to sentencing is a step backwards and will only exacerbate the existing inequalities in our criminal justice system.

“We all see, for instance, how the Home Secretary’s crackdown on the right to peaceful protest leads to more aggressive interventions – from the vigil in Clapham on Saturday, to Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion.

“We all know that the Bill’s stop and search measures will disproportionately target black people. I ask her – honestly – how does she expect these measures to address inequalities?

“Rather than giving us the powers we need to create a joined-up approach that properly integrates justice with health, education and social policy, this Bill will place further strain on the system in Wales, and lead to worse outcomes for all.

“Despite twenty years of devolution, powers over justice remain in Westminster – but the delivery of many of the related services is the responsibility of the Welsh Government.

“New measures are announced in this Bill risk only further complicating the unsustainable mess of the ‘jagged edge’ of Welsh justice policy.

“Initiatives such as ‘Problem solving courts’ require the close cooperation of probation and health professionals.

“How will they be delivered in Wales, where powers over health are devolved? And crucially, what additional funding will we receive to deliver them?

“Given this Government’s blind-spot to devolution, I fear that yet again, these policies have been designed by England, for England.

“We could do so much better in Wales if we had proper control of our policing and criminal justice. We could deliver a more humane and more accountable justice system – in stark contrast to the regressive measures contained in this Bill.”

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