Peers block law on being annoying in public

 

Peers debate the proposal: from BBC Democracy Live

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Peers have voted against a government proposal under which courts could stop people being annoying in public.

Ministers want to replace anti-social behaviour orders in England and Wales with injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance (Ipnas).

Courts could impose these on anyone engaging - or threatening to engage - in "conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person".

But the government was defeated by 306 to 178 votes in the Lords.

The 128-vote defeat came despite ministers offering to hold talks about how the proposed measure could be improved.

Start Quote

Our aim is to ensure that decent law-abiding people can go about their daily lives, engage in normal behaviour... without having their own freedoms constrained by anti-social individuals”

End Quote Lord Taylor of Holbeach Home Office minister

The BBC's deputy political editor James Landale said many peers believed the new injunction would undermine freedom of speech and association.

Crossbench peer Lord Dear, who led opposition to the plan, said anyone over the age of 10 could be served with an Ipna, which could last for an indefinite period of time and result in a prison term if breached.

"It risks it being used for those who seek to protest peacefully, noisy children in the street, street preachers, canvassers, carol singers, trick-or-treaters, church bell ringers, clay pigeon shooters, nudists," he said.

"This is a crowded island that we live in and we must exercise a degree surely of tolerance and forbearance."

Campaigners said the laws would not deter those most intent on causing trouble and likely to be committing other offences.

"But it will give massive power to the authorities to seek court orders to silence people guilty of nothing more than breaching political correctness or social etiquette," Reform Clause 1 campaign director Simon Calvert said.

'Elastic term'

Crossbencher Lord Blair of Boughton, a former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "This is a piece of absolutely awful legislation and we should seek to avoid it."

Former Labour Attorney General Lord Morris of Aberavon criticised the Home Office for bringing forward "ill thought out" proposals with "little regard for the consequences".

"The Home Office I fear, from time to time, does not fulfil a purpose as a guardian of our liberties and as a watchtower against infringement of those liberties," he said, arguing that the words harassment, alarm and distress had been well tested in the courts.

"Nuisance and annoyance is such an elastic term that, if applied widely, can be open-ended machinery which would catch all sorts of people who really should not be before the courts," he concluded.

The Home Office has said the new injunctions - part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill - would never be imposed in an unreasonable way.

And Home Office minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach denied that the bill would create a "chilling effect" on free speech.

"Lords have suggested, for example, that an injunction could be sought against bell ringers or street preacher or carol singers or indeed others engaging in perfectly normal everyday activities.

"That is clearly not the government's purpose. It is my belief that these concerns are misplaced. The purpose of our reforms is not to prevent people exercising their rights to protests and free speech.

"Our aim is to ensure that decent law-abiding people can go about their daily lives, engage in normal behaviour and enjoy public and private behaviour without having their own freedoms constrained by anti-social individuals."

The government could seek to reinsert the proposal in the bill later in its passage through the Lords and, if that fails, when it returns to the House of Commons.

Both Houses of Parliament must agree on the final wording of the bill before it can be sent for Royal Assent, when the Queen approves bills and they become law.

 

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  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 491.

    & who wants& designed this bill -

    Secretary May, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Chris Grayling, Mr Secretary Pickles, Mr Secretary Paterson, the Attorney-General and Mr Jeremy Browne.

    So much for Clegg being a Liberal, about the only thing he wants to liberate is removal of peoples rights & freedoms, as do the others.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 490.

    I must admit to finding street "preachers" (regardless of faith) quite annoying, but I don't propose that they should be locked up or even spoken to by the police.

    If the same individual went beyond just speaking to being aggressive or cause actual nuisance (beyond speaking), the police still have carte blanche under current law to interpret as they wish and arrest if they choose.

  • Comment number 489.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 488.

    471.Sally
    Prove where Hayek or a credible Libertarian advocates that...
    ---
    Sally, read my post carefully. I did not say that Hayek advocated suppression of free speech. What I am implying is that politicians inspired by him want to but they are cherry-picking bits of ideology that suit them.

    It is, for this reason, I believe libertarianism is doomed for failure if it was ever implemented.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 487.

    Regretably, whilst I do feel that laws to curtail the behaviour of some would not go amiss, I think that being annoyed is a subjective thing and therefore very difficult to police. We already have laws governing what we can say so as to not give offence, which has yielded no end of faff. It's the responsibility of the person who is being annoyed to bite their lip and be tolerant.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 486.

    "Sally
    will confine myself to illuminating your flawed logic"

    Hilarious. I'm not sure someone who is such an exponent of the use of such fallacies as the "strawman", the false dichotomy and the many and various versions of syllogistic fallacies is best placed to "illuminate" anyone else's alleged "flawed logic"! Except by example, of course.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 485.

    I find people who keep saying "lol" all the time extremely annoying.Please ban it.:)

  • Comment number 484.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 483.

    It strikes me that many of those in the Commons don't know what laws are already available and can be enforced. It also seems as if those in the Upper House have their fingers more on the pulse that they do.

    Sally & Curtains, maybe it's a good thing this may be quashed, I'm sure you'd be up for annoying people, even though I find it quite amusing.

  • Comment number 482.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 481.

    Oh goody

    Secretary May, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Chris Grayling, Mr Secretary Pickles, Mr Secretary Paterson, the Attorney-General and Mr Jeremy Browne,

    annoy me just by presenting this bill, can they now please be arrested & recovery of possession of their dwelling-houses be instigated, as per their design

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 480.

    One more reason to keep an Unelected and non Party Upper house. It's the Lords and especially Law Lords who uphold the freedoms that so many Party Politicians seem keen to undermine.
    There already more than enough laws to protect the supersensitive, we do not need yet another assault on freedom of speech.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 479.

    471.Sally the Rothbardian
    470.CURTAINS 2012
    You can flee harm or discomfort, so don't deny nor ridicule that same right others enjoy, particularly those more vulnerable than you.

    +++

    Does Rothbard limit the rights of children to flee?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 478.

    Anyone who beleives a word that comes from the Home Office can only blame themselves when they are arrested on a whim because they were using their right to of freedom of speech. This poorly drafted law will be used as a catch all so that the executive can incarcerate people for legally daring to protest or disagree!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 477.

    469 - No. It means if you say something like that in public, its all the excuse they need to lock you up....free speech is annoying and very inconvenient to our politicians.

    This just appears to be a blanket power of arrest for the police, who are completely unaccoutable in any event (short of criminal activity of their own, they are untouchable) and interpret current laws to suit their agenda.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 476.

    I find the House Of Lords quite annoying.
    Who do I report this to?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 475.

    speak when someone in authority tells you to is it ?
    you have the right to remain silent

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 474.

    So the though police (1984) come into being?

    How dare this government decide what is annoying and using the clout of law to push us under the jackboot of the state.

    People have different tolerances of annoyance and behaviour - and that's what makes us HUMAN!

    I want to stay human and be tolerant thank you.

    Hope this silly and stupid idea gets chucked into touch.

    Imagine,no comedy

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 473.

    @CURTAINS

    "most offensive thing is his arrogance and belittling of anyone having other opinions"

    Good.

    Being "offended" and the right to be "offensive" is the very essence of what Freedom of Speech & Expression actually is and what it is for - a Human Right that is far more or holy & sacred to Free Individuals than anyone's religion or Prophet.

    Being "upset" gives no one any special rights.

  • Comment number 472.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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