British House of Lords Votes Against Banning Annoying Behavior

The British House of Lords, the U.K. Parliament’s
upper unelected chamber, has
voted in favor of amending
a clause in a bill that as written
would allow anyone in England and Wales engaging in or threatening
to engage in “conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to
any person” to face an injunction. According to the BBC, the Home
Office “has said the new injunctions would never be imposed in an
unreasonable way.”

The campaign group Reform
Clause 1
, named after the worrying clause in the
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill
, claims that if
implemented Clause 1 of the bill “could have a chilling effect on
free speech.” The group rightly highlights the fact that
numerous groups and people could be considered to be “causing
nuisance or annoyance,” such as carol singers, Scientologists,
political protesters, and soccer players.

The injunctions outlined in the bill would replace Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs)
which, despite their name, are not handed down to people who don’t
like socializing. Rather, they can be imposed on people who display
“drunken or threatening behaviour,” carry out vandalism, or
“playing loud music at night.” Unsurprisingly, ASBOs have been used
on a wide range of people, as George Monbiot explained in

The Guardian
a few days before today’s vote:

Asbos have been granted which forbid the carrying of condoms by
a prostitute, homeless alcoholics from possessing alcohol in a
public place, a soup kitchen from giving food to the poor, a young
man from walking down any road other than his own, children from
playing football in the street. They were used to ban peaceful
protests against the Olympic clearances.

Monbiot went on to point out that the injunctions would come
with potentially lifelong obligations attached:

The bill would permit injunctions against anyone of 10 or older
who “has engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of
causing nuisance or annoyance to any person”. It would replace
asbos with ipnas (injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance),
which would not only forbid certain forms of behaviour, but also
force the recipient to discharge positive obligations. In other
words, they can impose a kind of community service order on people
who have committed no crime, which could, the law proposes, remain
in force for the rest of their lives.

The bill now goes back to the House of Commons.

Track the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing
Bill here.

from Hit & Run

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