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Guildford MP Backs Decision to Support Controversial Police Bill

Published on: 24 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 25 Mar, 2021

From Angela Richarson’s FaceBook Page

By Ben Baker and Martin Giles

Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson has used social media to defend her decision to support the controversial Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill and in a video (see below) tells of her own experiences of harassment.

On Tuesday (March 16), Ms Richardson and 358 other MPs voted for the Bill to proceed to a second reading.

On Friday (March 19), after pressure from constituents, she released a statement and a post on Facebook, defending her actions and confirming her support of the Bill.

In the Facebook post, she voiced disappointment with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, attacking them for voting against a Bill that contained some of their priorities. She said this was throwing “their legislative babies out with the bathwater” for “political purposes”.

Ms Richardson also voiced frustration with media reports claiming that desecrating statues would be given more jail time than rape under the purposed legislation, calling it “irresponsible” and “simply wrong”.

Click on image to link

In her official statement, she concentrated on the Bill itself, saying measures to increase penalties for sexual offenders and increase police presence in bars, pubs, and night clubs are “vital” to “protect women and girls”.

She also championed the Bill’s proposal to tighten laws around “illegal Traveller sites” and pointed to other legislation, the Domestic Abuse Bill, that she feels will help tackle violence against women.

The government and Ms Richardson, a Parliamentary Private Secretary and loyal supporter, is trying to walk a political tightrope.

While acknowledging the pain and anger surrounding Sarah Everard’s murder, and the subsequent complaints of mishandling and mistreatment of women protesters by police and the wave of concern about violence towards women, she and her government are supporting a Bill that increases police power to break up protests.

Ms Richardson says it is not her role to “conflate one set of events and the policing …with legislation that has been a significant time in the making” but has promised to scrutinise, debate and consider “any amendments” or proposals for change” to the Bill.

Brian Creese

Brian Creese, chair of Guildford Labour Party, said: “This rambling Bill includes some good measures, but these are outweighed by some serious errors of judgement.

“The Bill is essentially a reaction against the huge Extinction Rebellion protests two years ago and the felling of the slaver statue in Bristol last summer. In both cases resorting to legislation to restrict protest is the wrong move.

“It is instructive to see how many former senior police officers have expressed concern at handing the police more control over whether or not protests are appropriate.

“Every democratic advance that has been made in this country has been as a result of protest, be it extension of voting rights, including votes for women, and moves to promote racial and sexual equality.

“Protest is sometimes inconvenient but nonetheless essential in a mature democracy.”

Zoe Franklin

Zoe Franklin, the Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson, said: “There are positives on specific issues in the Bill but it runs roughshod over the democratic right of people to voice their concerns through protest.

“The primary purpose of the Bill was to make the Conservatives look tough on crime while demolishing the democratic right to peaceful protest. Laws already exist making violent and aggressive protest illegal.

“Under the Bill, you can be committing a criminal offence just for standing in a public place holding up a placard if it might annoy someone.

“The Conservatives have slashed funding for police mobile phone forensics, meaning to obtain evidence can take years, they’ve closed courts and cut staff, meaning victims of serious crimes like rape and violent assault can be left waiting three years, or more, just for their case to be heard.

“A MP’s duty is to protect our democratic rights and freedoms, and to do whatever they can to strengthen British justice. Ms Richardson and the Conservatives have done none of these things.

“They have cynically, and almost systematically, taken an axe to our justice system, and its victims of crime who are paying the price. Far from raising these scandalous issues in parliament, Ms Richardson seems to be unaware they exist.”

Listen to Angela Richardson talk about her own experience of harassment (this video is unsuitable for children)…

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