“Whilst the Policing Bill is being debated in Parliament, I will continue to call for every record of communication between the Home Secretary, the Crown Prosecution Service as well as Avon & Somerset Police on this case to be made public. Any political pressure or influence informing the decision to prosecute should be known in full whilst such a draconian Bill is being debated.”Apsana Begum MP
By Ben Folley, Labour Outlook
Labour MP Apsana Begum has challenged the political interference of the Home Secretary in the case of the Colston Four, acquitted earlier this week when accused of criminal damage in toppling a statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston in 2020.
The outcome of the case has outraged defenders of Colston and the political right.
The Attorney-General Suella Braverman has said she is “carefully considering” whether to refer the Colston statue case to the Court of Appeal, whilst a new government clause in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill at the behest of Home Secretary Priti Patel, states that if you pull down a monument you can get up to 10 years in prison, as opposed to the previous three months maximum.
Patel’s concern at the case of the Colston Four was raised in the Commons on Thursday.
Apsana Begum, who has been a leading supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racist campaigner amongst MPs, told the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, that, “the Home Office has confirmed that records exist of contact between the Home Secretary, the Crown Prosecution Service, and Avon and Somerset police on this case. What we do not know is what is in those records.”
She further asked, “Given that it stands contrary to constitutional convention for politicians to be involved in legal matters while they are going through the courts, will the Leader of the House ensure that those records are shared with the House and allow time for Parliament to scrutinise this matter further, because our constituents want answers?”
However, Rees-Mogg’s answer deflected from the issue, instead referring to the strengths of the jury system.
Speaking afterwards to Labour Outlook, Begum said, “Whilst the Policing Bill, which is the government’s direct response to the Black Lives Matter protests and seeks to criminalise protest, is being debated in Parliament, I will continue to call for every record of communication between the Home Secretary, the Crown Prosecution Service as well as Avon and Somerset Police on this case to be made public. Any political pressure or influence informing the decision to prosecute should be known in full whilst such a draconian and authoritarian Bill is being debated.”
The Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is at Report Stage in the House of Lords. The government’s new clauses will then be sent back to the House of Commons for approval. Yvette Cooper will lead Labour’s response for her first piece of legislation since her appointment to Shadow Home Secretary and is yet to comprehensively set out her position.
Activists should continue to put pressure on the Government and the Labour frontbench to defeat this Bill.