An architect has applied at the high court to change his name by deed poll to “Kill the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill” in protest at punitive new anti-protest legislation being debated in the House of Lords on Monday.
Nick Newman, 35, from London, went to the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday morning to make the application. It comes as peers have an unusual opportunity to vote down some of the most controversial of the government’s proposals.
“My hope is to share a humorous action with a serious message to convince a couple of lords to vote the right way,” he said.
The police and crime bill has been criticised by protest groups, human rights organisations and even parliament’s joint committee on human rights, with many highlighting how, among other measures, it would criminalise causing “serious annoyance”, with potential 10-year sentences for offenders.
“I wanted [the name change] to be something which was clearly not something that would be useful in everyday life and in fact could be described as ‘really annoying’ to use,” Newman told the Guardian. “To my friends and family who think that the name is going to be a bit too annoying, my answer to them is: ‘Just call me Bill.’”
Newman is an environmental activist who has been arrested several times for protests in the past few years. Among them have been lock-on actions, where protesters attach themselves to a structure to make it more difficult to remove, which will be specifically criminalised under amendments being debated in the Lords on Monday.
“This new policing bill is really going so far that people in my position who wish to exercise their rights to protest are going to be seriously curtailed,” he said.
“Some of the things which have been proposed specifically in these amendments which are being debated in the House of Lords today are going to impose prison sentences for simple things like attaching yourself to a structure.
“So if I had redone some of the protests that I had already done under the new bill then I would go to jail for up to a year.”
The action was intended to tie in with a “really annoying demo” planned by the comedian Mark Thomas at Westminster later on Monday. Once Newman has received his new name, he will be attending the protest from 5pm at College Green, opposite the House of Lords.