There was a lot of talk from critics of the new policing bill saying that it would prohibit megaphones in protests, but it seems like the relevant provisions may actually just be extremely narrowly confined to just affecting the parliament Square area around Westminster?

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It seems to me that some commentators/articles have inadvertently conflated different legislation and a recent event involving the seizure of equipment from protester Steve Bray in Parliament Square. Some articles about Steve Bray have named or otherwise referred to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 without an explanation of any link between that person and this law - to me there is no link in the context of Bray's equipment seizure (the police may have mentioned other newer powers to Bray).

  1. Among other things, section 143 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (as amended) explicitly prohibits the unauthorised use of "amplified noise equipment" (including but not limited to loudspeakers and loudhailers) within Parliament Square and (the amendment) "the Palace of Westminster controlled area".

Westminster Council provides a map in pdf format of the respective areas: Appendix to Protocol for enforcement of provisions in relation to noise nuisance in the vicinity of Parliament.

Before the PRSRA 2011, sections 137 and 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 gave the Home Secretary the power to prohibit the unauthorised use of "loudspeakers" in "designated areas" no more than one kilometre around Parliament Square.

  1. Part 3 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 amends the Public Order Act 1986 in relation to "public processions and public assemblies", including clauses related to "noise".

  2. Section 78 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 abolished the common law offence of public nuisance and created the statutory offence of "intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance". This more recent legislation has been criticised in relation to protests generally (not solely those that involve megaphones), e.g. by the Joint Committee on Human Rights its witnesses in their scrutiny of the-then Bill. Quote:

  1. The Bill introduces a new statutory offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” which was previously an offence at common law. There is a wide range of non-violent conduct that may be caught by the statutory offence, which potentially criminalises some forms of peaceful protest. The offence carries a maximum sentence of 12 months if tried summarily and 10 years if tried on indictment. A person can also be issued with a fine.77 A number of our witnesses raised concerns about the impact of these changes and its compatibility with Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR. We share some of those concerns.

In summary the explicit prohibition of "amplified noise equipment" is limited to Parliament Square and "the Palace of Westminster controlled area" but one can easily imagine the police claiming that a protester's use of a megaphone is a public nuisance.


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