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World News

Christian Aid pleads with Parliament not to restrict free speech on poverty in new Bill

by Heather Preston

Christian Aid is warning Westminster against making new restrictions on peaceful protests, ahead of today's Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill vote.

On Monday the House of Lords will conclude its debate on a Bill which has been condemned by activists and social justice organisations as an 'attack on the right to protest'.

The proposed legislation for crime and justice in England and Wales includes changes to police powers on demonstrations.

Under the new law officers will be able to impose a start and finish time to protests, limit noise and apply these restrictions to a demonstration by a single individual. 

Failure to follow these new rules will become a criminal offence and protestors could be fined up to £2,500.

Currently, police need to prove protesters knew they had been told to move on, before they can be said to have broken the law.

The proposed law includes an offence of "intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance", while damage to memorials could lead to up to 10 years in prison. 

Christian Aid and other organisations gathered outside the Home office on Monday to protest against the proposed Bill.

The charity has warned Parliament not to erode the right to speak out against poverty and injustice, citing the devastating affects this could have on people of faith.

Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns & UK Advocacy at Christian Aid, said:

"From campaigning for climate justice to calling for action on food poverty in the UK, churches and people of faith are often at the forefront of movements for change. 

"To tackle extreme poverty and the injustices that cause it, we must be able to speak truth to power. But this law puts this under threat. 

"It is vital that the Government hears voices of protest and demands for justice, but instead it is giving the police wide ranging powers that restrict our rights to speak out against poverty.

"Parliament still has time to stop new restrictions on peaceful protest that will have serious consequences for faith communities right across the country."

The coalition has gathered over 800,000 signatures in opposition to the new measures.

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