No-go Britain: Royal Family and ministers protected from protesters by new laws
London Independent | June 5, 2007
The House of Commons and No 10 Downing Street are among 16 "protected sites" designated by the Home Secretary, John Reid, in a bid to crack down on protestors.
New criminal powers will make it an offence punishable by up to six months in prison to break through security cordons and mount protests inside a series of sensitive government buildings, and royal palaces including the Palace of Westminster.
The offence was created in response to a security breach by self-styled "comedy terrorist" Aaron Barschak, who gatecrashed Prince William's 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle dressed as Osama bin Laden in 2003. It followed a report into that breach of security by Commander Frank Armstrong of the City of London police.
The new offence was also recommended by an official report into how a Daily Mirror journalist got a job as a Buckingham Palace footman in the same year.
The clampdown on protests inside the Houses of Parliament follows the demonstration staged by five pro-foxhunting protesters including Otis Ferry, the son of rock star Bryan Ferry while MPs debated the ban on hunting with dogs. It could be applied in future to the Fathers4Justice who climbed the roof of Westminster Hall to protest about lack of access to their children.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "I am not aware of vast troops of trespassers wanting to invade MI5 or MI6, still less running the gauntlet of security checks in Whitehall and Westminster to make a point. It's a sledgehammer to crack a nut." Liberty, the rights group, said the measure was "excessive".
The restrictions will apply to Portcullis House, the recently-built extension to the Commons, where MPs have their private offices. It also extends to the headquarters of MI5, MI6, the Ministry of Defence, and the listening post at GCHQ Cheltenham. It will not ban protesters outside the security fences.
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