Injunction granted against UK climate protesters
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Protesters blocking London’s orbital highway could be jailed after the owner of England’s major highways obtained an injunction banning further blockades by a group of climate change activists.
The move in favor of national highways came after activists from the Insulate Britain group blocked the M25 motorway for the fifth time last week, prompting the Transport Secretary to call for a ban on further protests.
“The injunction will considerably strengthen [the police’s] hand because the same people then can’t come back and if they do, they risk jail time and a fine, ”Grant Shapps told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
The move reflects the government’s determination to act more firmly against disruptive protests following an increase in the number of protests, including by environmental group Extinction Rebellion.
Insulate Britain, which campaigns to reduce carbon emissions through better house insulation, this month staged a number of protests that have touched Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent as well as the capital, to attract attention to their cause.
As a result of the ruling, protesters who continue to block the highway will be in contempt of court and could be jailed for much longer than the 24-hour maximum they faced had they been arrested previously.
Some ministers were frustrated that last year’s protests against Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter succeeded in creating widespread disruption.
Last year Home Secretary Priti Patel asked the HM Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Rescue Services to report on how the forces were balancing the right to protest and affected communities to live normal lives. The resulting report, released in March, said the balance had shifted too much in favor of protest.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently before parliament, will drastically curtail the rights of protest organizers if passed.
Shapps told the transport committee that the government is planning a new review of police credentials in light of the M25 protests.
“It is clear that it is unacceptable that people can walk not only on a main road but on a highway, stop the traffic, be released the next day and do the same thing again,” he said.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today program before it was confirmed that the injunction had been granted, Insulate Britain member Zoe Cohen refused to pledge to stop the protests.
“I think the people who take part in these actions understand that the risks they are taking are due to the fact that we have tried everything to get the government to protect us from the predicted impacts of climate chaos,” she said.
After the decision was confirmed, the group’s Twitter account continued to draw attention to the effects of poorly insulated homes.
“The government is reckless and is putting lives at risk with its inaction on isolation,” he wrote. “How many lives have already been lost because of poorly insulated leaky houses?” How many will be lost due to climate collapse? “
Chris Noble, deputy chief of police for Humberside, responsible for police protests at the National Council of Chiefs of Police, said the police were not “anti-protest” but were “pro-responsible”.
“These causes are undoubtedly laudable,” he said. “My challenge would be where does that give you the right to have that level of impact and put the lives of police officers and potentially members of the public at risk?” “