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Activists could be tracked by GPS under draconian Public Order Bill

CAMPAIGNERS could be hit with “unprecedented and highly draconian” protest bans under new legislation debated by MPs later today.

The Public Order Bill, which is due to receive its second reading in the Commons, contains a provision allowing police to fit campaigners with electronic GPS tags and ban them from attending protests by using new serious prevention orders. 

The measure would see individuals prohibited from attending demonstrations if they have been convicted on two occasions of protest-related offences. 

Worryingly, an order can also be handed to a protester who has not been convicted but has been deemed to cause serious disruption on two occasions. 

People given such orders can also face other restrictions, including on their online activity, who they can talk to and where they can go. 

Civil rights group Liberty said the provision marks a “significant expansion of state surveillance on protesters” as the authorities will receive powers to monitor the activities of campaigners to ensure that they are complying with the order. 

Among those powers, police will be allowed to fit activists with ankle tags, which can be imposed for up to 12 months and perhaps longer if the order is renewed. 

In a briefing paper published ahead of the debate, Liberty described the provision as “unprecedented and highly draconian,” warning that the orders could amount to “a ban on named individuals’ fundamental right to protest.”

The Bill also proposes expanding stop-and-search powers and creating a new “locking on” offence, which would criminalise protesters who use bike locks or chains to secure themselves to each other or to objects.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to tell MPs later today that the Bill is intended to tackle a “rise in criminal, disruptive and self-defeating tactics from a supremely selfish minority.”

But Amnesty International warns that if the measure becomes law, it will “seriously curtail human rights”  and has called on MPs to reject the legislation in its entirety. 

Labour has also voiced opposition to the measures, with the front bench tabling a motion to block the Bill. 

Liberty head of policy and campaigns Sam Grant said that the legislation constituted a power grab by a “government determined to shut down accountability.”

He added: “Protest is a right, not a gift from the state, and measures like these are designed to stop ordinary people from making their voices heard.”

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