A LABOUR MP has highlighted the ludicrous situation where someone who toppled a statue into a river could face a harsher punishment than a person who endangered a woman or child, if a new bill is passed.

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, spoke out as the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 is debated in Parliament.

The bill looks to increase the maximum penalty for criminal damage of less than £5,000 to a memorial from three months to ten years’ imprisonment, the same maximum sentence for non-sexual child abuse.

Meanwhile, the maximum sentence for inflicting grievous bodily harm or unlawful wounding under Section 20 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 is five years.

Several other features of the proposed bill have also been singled out for criticism. Many of these have related to granting police further powers to restrict protests, with officers given the ability to impose start and finish times, set noise limits and apply these rules to a demonstration involving a single person.

These elements of the bill have become particularly prevalent following clashes between police and those involved in a vigil for Sarah Everard over the weekend.

Mr Kyle said: “It’s 300 pages long. They landed the bill last week and they’re introducing it this week. It is full of cultural provocation.

“But circumstance has shone a light. It feels like a bill that has been scraped off the floor of the Justice Department and Home Office with every little measure thrown together in an incoherent way.

"And at no point has (Home Secretary) Priti Patel asked herself and her team the question, ‘how do we want to change law enforcement in the 2020s?’. There is no theme, no story and no overall purpose to this bill.

The Colston statue was deposited into Bristol harbour

The Colston statue was deposited into Bristol harbour

“So, once this bill passes, should a mob throw a statue into the water and then throw a woman or girl into the water they will get a much stronger and tougher sentence for their attack on a statue than a living, breathing, vulnerable child. And that is all you need to know about why Labour opposes this legislation.”

Mr Kyle said the measures suggested within the bill were “unprecedented within British law-making”.

“The ability to ban people from gathering in front of Parliament and having the power to disperse and make unlawful protests which are classified as peaceful is fundamentally un-British. They would have made every protest from the Suffragettes to the People’s Vote marches unlawful,” he said.

He added: “This is unprecedented in British law-making. We have to look at countries such as Hungary and Russia to start gauging the direction of travel because there is no precedent of this in the British experience.”

“Priti Patel would have the power to stop anyone she disagrees with from peacefully entering a public space and making their views known.”

Mr Kyle said that he, as a member of the opposition frontbench and shadow minister for victims and youth justice, had been appointed to the bill committee.

“So, one of our city’s MPs will not just be part of the debate, I will be in committee leading the opposition to this bill day in, day out, for several months,” he said.

“I will be picking it apart and, on behalf of the opposition, putting forward amendments which will make every space a safe space for women and girls everywhere, to make sure that sexual assault and rape allegations are dealt with swiftly, and a multitude of additional support is put in place for victims.

“I’ll also be trying to protect women tenants, sexual exploitation via sex for rent, and helping to steer children away from the criminal justice system and towards a more supportive environment.

“And, finally, protecting the right of every citizen to protest in a respectful, peaceful manner.”

Peter Kyle has taken aim at Brighton and Hove City Council

Yesterday, shadow justice secretary David Lammy said the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains “poorly thought out” proposals which would impose disproportionate controls on the right to protest. As a result, he announced, Labour would be voting against the legislation.

But Mr Kyle said that, though he strongly opposed many elements of the bill, some features could be supported.

He said “There are 300 pages and there are lots of measures which Labour will be supporting. There is tougher sentencing on drink-drivers, and other key measures which Labour has campaigned for. The drink-driver measures were a Labour campaign. And there are several of David Lammy’s recommendations from his review into disproportionality which are in there. So we will be constructive over certain parts of the bill.

“But, overall, it is a monument to Priti Patel’s venality and petty obsession with cultural wedge issues. It is not the bill that our country needs.”