The Reform Clause 1 campaign succeeded in its aim to amend Clause 1. The change is now incorporated in Section 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and came into force in October 2014.
CHARITIES AND CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS URGE HOME SECRETARY TO ACCEPT LORDS AMENDMENT, IN JOINT LETTERJanuary 16, 2014
A diverse alliance of 11 charities and civil liberties groups has written a joint letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, urging her to accept the Lords amendment to reform clause 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.
The amendment, which was passed by a significant majority in the House of Lords on 8 January, still needs to be voted on by MPs in the House of Commons.
The joint letter from groups, including JUSTICE, The Christian Institute and the National Secular Society, advised that clause 1 without the amendment would, “damage civil liberties and clog up the courts with needless applications, preventing them focusing on genuine anti-social behaviour”.
The alliance warned that it would be “a grave mistake” to extend the “nuisance or annoyance” definition of anti-social behaviour from social housing to the entire public sphere.
They also raised free speech concerns stating: “Such a broad power, with potential application to any person in any place, is bound to lead to misuse and injustice. The temptation to use it against inconvenient, unfashionable, irritating or unwelcome expressions of opinion is far too great.”
The alliance pointed to the potential for “nuisance or annoyance” to be misused in the same way the word “insulting” was misused under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The Government agreed to remove the word “insulting” after the Lords voted for it in 2012.
In response to Home Office minister Norman Baker’s comments that the Lords only voted for the amendment because they didn’t understand what “nuisance and annoyance” meant – the alliance highlighted the many distinguished lawyers and police officers who voted for the amendment.
In the joint letter they reminded the Home Secretary that the reform was proposed by a former Chief Constable and supported by four former Commissioners of the Met, along with a former Lord Chancellor, a former Attorney General, a former President of the Supreme Court, a former Deputy President of the Supreme Court, a former Director of Public Prosecutions and numerous other judges and QCs”.
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