Beauty and retail brand The Body Shop has lambasted a UK Bill which, if passed, could see those partaking in protests deemed ‘noisy’ spend 51 weeks in prison.
In a statement issued on the day The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was sent to the House of Lords to be examined and amended (15 December), The Body Shop entreated members to “carefully scrutinise the bill (including the 18 new pages of amendments that have recently been added)”.
“We urge them to consider what they would be signing away if they passed it, a very British tradition of peaceful protest and the right to freedom of speech,” it added.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill provides new powers to stop public assembly and criminalise protests, meaning offenders could face up to 51 weeks in prison for attending a protest deemed ‘noisy’ or disruptive, or being in possession of placards.
The Bill has been the subject of contention, with the UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, adding 18 extra pages to the bill after it had already passed through the House of Commons, with amendments including measures that would ban protesters from attaching themselves to another person, object or land, making ‘locking-on’ illegal.
It would also become an offence to obstruct major transport works from being carried out in any way.
According to the GOV.UK website: "This measure [amendment] has been informed by the experiences of policing in response to the deployment of lock-ons in protest. Use of this disruptive and dangerous tactic has risen in recent years – including on some of the UK's busiest and most dangerous motorways."
Commenting on the Bill, The Body Shop's statement read: “Not only is its contents deeply concerning, with 18 new pages being added to the Bill late in the day with virtually no consultation, but it has moved hastily through parliament with little debate or publicity.”
The Body Shop, which has been part of the Natura & Co stable since 2017, was founded in Brighton, England, by human rights and environmental campaigner Anita Roddick in 1976, and describes itself as an ‘activist business’.
Its first campaign was in partnership with Greenpeace in 1986, protesting the hunting of whales, and as detailed on The Body Shop’s website, it has run prominent campaigns in the years since, highlighting issues including the burning of Brazilian rainforests, animal testing, renewable energy, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and sex trafficking.
“Our campaigns, in partnership with our customers, defined our past and continue to shape our future,” continued the statement.
“Britain was the perfect backdrop for The Body Shop’s activism because protest has been an integral part of the British way of life for centuries.
“The word alone conjures powerful imagery of suffragettes, placards and communities coming together to march in cities and towns around the country.
“In many ways, protest captures Britain at its best: creative, noisy, passionate, cross generational and intersectional. This is what a democracy looks like to us.
“Today, our government is attempting to rush through new legislation that will threaten our ability to campaign on the things we care about.”