The Protection of Freedoms Bill gained royal assent on 1 May 2012, becoming the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 11 February 2011, and passed into the House of Lords on 12 October 2011.
The Protection of Freedoms Act is now available on the legislation.gov.uk website.
In the Queen’s Speech of May 2010, the government announced the introduction of legislation that would ‘restore freedoms and civil liberties through the abolition of identity cards and unnecessary laws’. Following this commitment, the Home Office introduced the Identity Documents Bill, which received Royal Assent in December 2010. Identity cards and the National Identity Register have now been abolished.
The Protection of Freedoms Bill marks the next step in the government’s legislative programme to safeguard civil liberties and reduce the burden of government intrusion into the lives of individuals.
The bill and explanatory notes can be found on the parliament website.
What will the Protection of Freedoms Bill do?
The bill includes the following provisions:
- DNA retention - adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the retention of DNA and fingerprints
- fingerprinting of children in schools - introducing a requirement on schools and colleges to obtain the consent of parents before taking fingerprints (and other biometrics such as iris scanning) from children under the age of 18 years
- further regulation of closed circuit television/automatic number plate recognition systems - introducing a statutory code of practice and the appointment of a surveillance camera commissioner with responsibility for reviewing and reporting on the operation of the code
- the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 by local authorities
- stop and search powers
- pre-charge detention
- powers of entry - there are some 1,200 separate powers of entry contained in a mix of primary and secondary legislation. The bill creates three order-making powers to: (1) enable a minister of the crown (or the Welsh ministers) to repeal unnecessary powers of entry and associated powers; (2) consolidate a group of existing powers; or (3) attach additional safeguards to the exercise of such powers, including in particular provision requiring prior authorisation by a magistrates’ court. Provisions are also made for a code of practice governing the exercise of powers of entry
- prohibiting wheel clamping - creating a new criminal offence to immobilise, move or prevent the movement of a vehicle without lawful authority. We are also changing the law so that parking providers and other landowners may seek to recover unpaid parking charges from the registered keeper of a vehicle
- reform of the vetting and barring scheme and criminal records regime - introducing legislative provisions to implement the outcome of the reviews of the vetting and barring scheme and the criminal records regime, so as to scale them back to common-sense levels
- disclosure of decriminalised convictions for consensual gay sex - changing the law so that historical convictions for consensual gay sex with over-16s no longer have to be disclosed
- freedom of information - extending the freedom of information regime to cover companies wholly owned by two or more public authorities
- right to data - creating an obligation on departments and other public authorities to proactively release datasets in a reusable format
- Office of the Information Commission - changes to the appointment and accountability arrangements to enhance the independence of the Information Commission
- human trafficking - give effect to the criminal law aspects of EU Directive of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (Directive 2011/36/EU)
- serious fraud trials - repealing provisions removing the right to trial by jury
Subject to parliamentary progress, the bill is expected to receive Royal Assent by the end of the current session. We expect the current session will draw to a close around Easter 2012.
Public reading stage - have your say
The Protection of Freedoms Bill was chosen to pilot the new public reading stage of a bill’s passage through parliament. The coalition introduced this new form of engagement in its programme for government.
The pilot allowed members of the public to comment upon individual clauses and make suggestions for how these could be improved.
The public reading stage closed for public comment on 7 March 2011. You can read the public reading stage report providing a summary of comments received.
Impact assessments have been prepared for the following provisions in the bill:
There is also a privacy impact assessment re decriminalised convictions for gay sexual offences.
Full equality impact assessments have been produced for the following provisions: