Policing regulations for 'Kill the Bill' protests during Covid 'confusing', West Yorkshire PCC Mark Burns-Williamson says

West Yorkshire's outgoing Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has praised officers' handling of recent protests in Leeds in the face of "confusing" legislation.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 2:11 pm
Updated Monday, 26th April 2021, 2:14 pm

Mark Burns-Williamson suggested that police had mixed messages from the government over how to approach demonstrations during the pandemic.

Hundreds of people marched through the centre of Leeds on Good Friday in protest at the new Police and Crime Bill, which campaigners fear will result in crackdowns on peaceful rallies.

That march passed without incident, in contrast to demonstrations over the same issue in Bristol and London, where there were violent clashes between police and protesters and dozens of arrests.

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The 'Kill the Bill' protest in Leeds earlier this month.

Mr Burns-Williamson, who is standing down from his role as the PCC next month, said he was pleased those scenes had not been repeated in West Yorkshire.

He told a Police and Crime Panel meeting on Friday: "We've seen protests turn into violent activity in places like London and Bristol.

"I'm pleased to say so far that the protests that have taken place in West Yorkshire have been relatively peaceful.

"I pay tribute to the police in the way they've approached that in the face of often difficult and confusing regulations to actually try to enforce."

Campaigners say the proposed law change is an attack on the right to protest.

Under proposals being put forward under the controversial bill, police would be able to impose a start and finish time on protests, set noise limits and issue fines of up to £2,500 to demonstrators who ignore their instructions.

Critics say the measures are disproportionate and would curb civil liberties.

Mr Burns-Williamson was elected as West Yorkshire's first PCC in 2012 and as a result took charge of the region's policing resources and priorities.

Prior to that, he'd joined the West Yorkshire Police Authority as a member in 1999.

Mr Burns-Williamson is stepping down as PCC next month after nine years.

The PCC role is now being merged with the office of the West Yorkshire mayor, who will be elected on May 6.

In a final farewell to the Police and Crime Panel, which is made up of local councillors who hold the PCC to account, Mr Buns-Williamson said doing the job had been a "huge privilege".

"Most of all I want to thank the public of West Yorkshire who've elected me into this role," he added.

"I've given it my best shot and hopefully overall my contribution is seen as a positive one."

Chief Constable John Robins told the meeting: "May I put on public record my thanks to Mark Burns-Williamson for 23 years of public service.

"His oversight, governance, interest, support and scrutiny of West Yorkshire Police have got us to the place we are today.

"On behalf of all of the officers and staff of West Yorkshire Police, thank you for your public service."

Local Democracy Reporting Service