New laws planned to tackle protesters who block motorways and interfere with national infrastructure have been welcomed by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire.
The powers were outlined in the Queen’s Speech and include a new criminal offence of protesters locking on and also tougher court orders against repeat offenders.
In recent years protesters repeatedly held up traffic on the M25 in Hertfordshire; targeted the Buncefield oil Depot in Hemel Hempstead and prevented lorries delivering national newspapers from the printing presses in Waltham Cross.
Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said: “I recognise and respect the right to protest as a corner stone of everybody living in a free country. But over the last few years Hertfordshire in particular, has seen a rise in protester activity purely aimed at causing maximum disruption to many thousands of people who are just trying to go about their everyday business.
“Each time these events happen I hear from the public, the vast majority of whom tell me they want tougher action taken. Apart from the frustration and wide-spread misery, lives are being put at risk.
“ I welcome the proposed bill which would prevent a minority of protesters from using guerrilla tactics that disrupt the public, businesses, and interfere with emergency services. It would ensure that police have the tools they need to manage and tackle dangerous and disruptive protest tactics better, as well as to prevent major transport projects and infrastructure from being targeted.”
The Queen’s Speech to Parliament last week was an opportunity for the Government to set out its priorities and the legislation it intends to pursue in the forthcoming parliamentary session.
Cutting crime was a key theme, as government set out its intention to ‘make the streets safer by cutting crime and ensuring the police and security services have the powers they need’ through various Bills including the Public Order Bill.
The main elements of the Bill are:
New criminal offences of locking-on and going equipped to lock-on, thereby criminalising the protest tactic of individuals intentionally attaching themselves to others, objects, or buildings to cause serious disruption.
Making it illegal to obstruct major transport works, including disrupting the construction or maintenance of projects, such as HS2.
Creating a new criminal offence for interfering with key national infrastructure, which covers any behaviour which obstructs or delays the operation of key infrastructure, such as airports, railways, and printing presses
Extending stop and search powers for police to search for and seize articles related to protest-related offences.
Introducing Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, a new preventative court order targeting protestors who are determined to repeatedly inflict disruption on the public; breach of the order will be a criminal offence.