Commissioner Calls For Local Powers To Ban Demonstrations (14 Oct 2013)

The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner is calling on the Government to review the law and allow greater control over local demonstrations.

Mark Burns Williamson has written to Home Secretary, Teresa May, requesting enhanced powers to ban a protest in consultation with police, partners and the community.

It follows Saturday's English Defence League event in Bradford, which is expected to cost in excess of a million pounds.

Under existing law, authorities have no legal powers whatsoever to ban a static protest.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns Williamson said in his letter:

"The community impact of such a damaging and disruptive demonstration and the costs incurred to our communities at a time of severe cuts to public services makes the current legislative arrangements in my view hugely questionable.

"The anticipated cost of policing this 'demonstration' alone is approximately one million pounds and that does not take into account the weeks of preparation and planning or the pre and post investigation costs.

"There are also significant associated extra costs for the local Council and other public services, let alone the losses to our local business as people understandably stayed out of the city on what should be a prime shopping day.

"It seems to me to be wholly wrong that the people of Bradford and tax-payers across West Yorkshire should carry the burden of the impact and costs for such events which are imposed upon them, and are designed to bring division and fear to our communities as well as attract groups with opposing views that only adds to community tensions.

"This makes policing more problematic across the county as the requirement for such mutual aid grows in the face of reducing overall capacity and capability.

"It is to the huge credit of Bradfordians from all communities and different organisations and faiths working together with the police and council that no serious disorder took place.

"I will be submitting a Special Grant application in respect of this demonstration as the budget reductions (approximately £140 million from 2010 to 2016) to policing will affect West Yorkshire disproportionately hard, securing this funding will help assist me and the Chief Constable in making sure the reduced budgets are spent meeting the policing and community safety priorities for our communities across the county.

"However; a review of the law to potentially extend current powers to prevent these types of 'assemblies' and 'rallies' that are targeted at specific communities and intended to cause division and disruption would be a better long term solution that takes into account local factors and circumstances after consultation.

"The disproportionate cost to our communities, public services and businesses that these type of EDL events are imposing in West Yorkshire and around the country surely now outweighs and questions the abuse of the individual rights to demonstrate."

 Please click here to view Mark Burns-Williamson's letter to the Home Secretary, Teresa May.


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