Protesters who cause ‘disruption’ face year in jail

Police will get extensive powers to crack down on disruptive yet peaceful protests under a package of new laws announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The Public Orders Bill will make it a criminal offence for activists to glue themselves onto each other, roads and buildings.

The ‘guerrilla’ tactics have been employed by protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil in recent years, costing police forces over £40million, according to the government.

Those found guilty face up to a year in jail, an unlimited fine or both.

Ahead of the Queen’s Speech – delivered by Prince Charles on behalf of his mother for the first ever time – Boris Johnson said he wanted to ‘get on with making our streets safer’ by ‘backing our police and giving them the tools they need to do the job’.

‘Through this Queen’s Speech we will give the police new powers to deal with highly disruptive protests,’ he said.

The Public Order Act will make it a criminal offence for people to ‘lock on’ or go to protests equipped to ‘lock on’ to buildings, objects or other protesters, using equipment such as padlocks, chains, glue and bamboo scaffolding structures. The offence will carry a six-month jail sentence or unlimited fine.

Meanwhile, a new offence of interfering with key national infrastructure – such as airports, railways and printing presses – will carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison.

It will also become illegal to obstruct major transport works, such as the HS2 high speed rail link.

HS2 estimated in October 2021 that sustained protester activity at some sites had cost the project up to £80 million.

The government said that, between September 13 and November 20 alone last year, 1,000 Insulate Britain protesers were arrested, costing police £4m.

And during Extinction Rebellion’s protests of April and October 2019, some of
London’s busiest areas were brought to a standstill for several days, with the policing operation costing £37 million.

That is more than twice the annual budget of London’s Violent Crime Taskforce in 2018-19.

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