MP Siobhan Baillie has defended her vote for the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill after protestors demonstrated against it in Stroud.

The campaigners joined protests throughout the country on Sunday by standing outside the Sub Rooms holding signs which read “Use it or lose it. Defend our right to protest!” and “10 years in jail for causing annoyance?”

In a statement, they accused the Stroud MP of voting for a “horrifying piece of legislation” despite “large numbers of people in Stroud voicing their opposition.”

Siobhan Baillie said deliberate misinformation was being spread about the bill.

“It’s absolutely nonsense that people will receive a ten-year custodial sentence for being noisy at protests or that protests will be banned,” she said.

“Everyone’s right to freedom of expression and of association is enshrined in the Human Rights Act and this bill does nothing to weaken that.”

Stroud News and Journal:

The bill has faced scrutiny for introducing a new offence: “Intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance,” meaning people could be fined or face jailtime if they cause "serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity".

It also proposes increasing the maximum penalty for criminal damage to a memorial from three months to 10 years.

Mrs Baillie said that while more work could be done to define some terms in the proposed legislation, she supported the government.

“The right to protest is fundamental but it is not an unqualified right. It does not mean anybody can protest at the expense of all others,” said Mrs Baillie.

“This Bill recognises it is not fair to protest for weeks, block roads, stop trains and prevent people earning a living or even see their dying relatives in hospital because of disruptive protests.

“Unfortunately, protesters over the last few years have deliberately caused mayhem, caused criminal damage, often set out to get arrested to waste police time and cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.”

Stroud News and Journal:

Under the Human Rights Act, an authority may restrict freedom of assembly if they can show that it is necessary and proportionate in order to protect national security or public safety, prevent disorder or crime, protect health or morals, or protect the rights and freedoms of other people.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May voiced concern in parliament, warning of unintended consequences for measures of the bill which she thought had been “drawn quite widely.”

“Freedom of speech is an important right in our democracy, however annoying or uncomfortable sometimes that might be and I know there will be people who will have seen scenes of protest and will have said, ‘why isn’t the government doing something?’, to which the answer in many cases may simply be because we live in a democratic, free society,” she said.

At the second reading of the bill on 16 March, 359 MPs voted against 263, meaning it will pass through to the next stage of Commons scrutiny and, if successful, will then move on to the House of Lords.