The Christian Institute and other civil liberty organisations have launched a campaign to reform clause 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill that could catch street preachers and carol singers.
Under the clause, a court can grant an Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA) if someone “has engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance” to any person.
IPNAs are easier to grant, and require a lower threshold of evidence than Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, known as ASBOs.
In a piece for The Daily Telegraph, Philip Johnston said anti-social behaviour won’t be stopped by another acronym, rather more police on the street are needed.
He said the new IPNAs would be deployed against “easy targets” while others “get away with terrorising their neighbourhoods”.
Mr Johnston referred to a legal opinion by Lord Macdonald QC, the former director of public prosecutions, which said the new powers would amount to “gross state interference” with people’s private lives and basic freedoms.
Lord Macdonald also said: “Of course political demonstrations, street performers and corner preachers may be ‘annoying’ to some – they may even, from time to time be a ‘nuisance’.”
But, he added, “The danger in this Bill is that it potentially empowers State interference against such activities in the face of shockingly low safeguards”.
Reform Clause 1, as the new campaign group is known, warn that the new IPNAs could have a “chilling effect on free speech” across the country.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill will reach committee stage of the House of Lords on 2 December.