14 March 2021
The European Pride Organisers Association has today written to the British Home Secretary and Justice Secretary to raise concerns that a proposed new law would allow for crackdowns on LGBTI+ Pride events.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill will be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow (Monday 15 March), and clauses in the bill allow police officers to put a stop to any protest that causes disruption to ‘the activities of an organisation’ or causes ‘impact on persons in the vicinity’.
In the letter to the Secretaries of State, President of EPOA Kristine Garina states:
The proposed legislation would allow any police officer to halt a Pride parade or march if they deem that the parade or march is disrupting ‘the activities of an organisation’ or causes ‘impact on persons in the vicinity’. Pride parades and marches are by their very nature and history forms of protest and causing disruption, noise and impact – only for a few hours – is the fundamental point of the event.
Whilst we would always defend the right of anyone to protest peacefully and lawfully, we note that it is the more spontaneous protest that is the real target of this legislation, rather than Pride events which are the culmination of months of planning and liaison with authorities. Nevertheless, the wording of the bill would allow its interventions to be applied to a Pride event.
Concerns have also been raised that the bill, if enacted, would fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. The letter goes on: Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of assembly and association. The European Court of Human Rights held (in Baczkowski and Others v Poland, 1543/06) in May 2007 that attempts to curtail a Pride parade constituted a breach of Articles 11, 13 and 14 of the Convention.
The Association, which has more than 40 member Prides in the UK, has regularly made interventions and written to governments – including in Poland and Hungary – to challenge legislation and attempts to use law to prevent Pride parades. The letter states that the Association does not expect to have to make such representations to the UK government which has for so long been a relative leader in LGBTI+ equality in Europe.
Kristine Garina said: “This shocking attempt to curtail basic human rights and freedoms must be amended to protect peaceful protest. Badly drafted legislation never works, and it appears that the UK government has either not considered the full implications of the new legislation, or doesn’t care. This is a threat to every LGBTI+ person in the country.”
The letter has also been sent to other parliamentarians including members of the Justice and Home Affairs Select Committees, and of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global LGBT Rights.