M25 protest: Activists risk prison terms over motorway demonstrations after judge grants injunction

Insulate Britain responds by calling the government ‘reckless’ and accuses ministers of ‘putting lives at risk’

Sam Hancock
Wednesday 22 September 2021 16:44 BST
Insulate Britain protesters block M25

A judge has granted National Highways an injunction against protesters who have been blocking parts of the M25, Grant Shapps has said.

The order, which will come into effect later on Wednesday, means activists risk being imprisoned if they breach it.

“Invading a motorway is reckless and puts lives at risk. I asked National Highways to seek an injunction against M25 protesters which a judge granted last night,” the transport secretary tweeted.

“Effective later today, activists will face contempt of court with possible imprisonment if they flout.”

The injunction follows days of disruptive demonstrations staged by environmental group Insulate Britain, who are demanding the government insulate all of “Britain’s 29 million leaky homes by 2030 and all social housing by 2025”.

Dozens of arrests have already taken place, but the group told the BBC this week it had no intention of slowing down due to the “scale of what is coming with the climate crisis”.

“That forces us to take action,” an unnamed protester said.

Meanwhile, before releasing an official statement, members hit back at the government today by hurling Mr Shapps’s remarks back at him on Twitter.

“The government is reckless and is putting lives at risk with its inaction on insulation,” the group said in a post, quoting the transport secretary’s own words. “How many lives have been lost already due to poorly insulated leaky homes? How many will be lost because of climate collapse?”

Before the court order was confirmed by Mr Shapps, home secretary Priti Patel vowed to use the “important injunction” to crack down on “guerilla” activism.

“We will not tolerate lives being put at risk,” she said. “Those who continue to do so risk imprisonment.”

Surrey Police arrested 38 Insulate Britain members after they targeted junctions nine and 10 of Britain’s busiest motorway before 8am on Tuesday.

Footage recorded at the scene shows protesters walking onto the motorway, near Cobham, Surrey, and sitting on the ground in front of oncoming traffic.

Some then held up banners reading “Insulate Britain” and poured blue paint on the road before being dragged away by officers.

In a joint column with Mr Shapps, published in the Daily Mail on Wednesday, Ms Patel said the Home Office was working with National Highways to take legal action against the Insulate Britain group in a bid to “ensure they cannot keep disrupting and endangering people’s lives”.

The pair condemned the tactics of the protesters and said police have their support to take “decisive action” against any future disruptive demonstrations.

They wrote: “[The protesters] have broken the law, undermined the cause they believe in, alienated the public, and created extra pollution, in one of the most self-defeating environmental protests this country has ever seen.

“We are giving [police] powers to better manage such guerrilla tactics in future.

“In the medium term, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will put public nuisance on a statutory footing, ensuring there are appropriate sentences for the harm caused.”

Acknowledging the injunction had been granted “in High Court last night”, Insulate Britain said in a statement: “We do not know the terms of the injunction and right now our campaign goes on.

“We appreciate that Priti Patel is in a difficult position. Like her, our biggest concern is law and order and our national security. In focusing on us, Priti Patel is missing the bigger picture.”

The group continued: “Currently 8,500 people a year die unnecessarily in the UK because of their frozen homes, and climate collapse presents an incalculable threat to our way of life. A more measured way in which she could discharge her ministerial responsibility would be to ask the prime minister to start the process of insulating Britain’s leaky homes.”

The protesters added: “As soon as the government makes a meaningful statement that we can trust, we will leave the motorway.”

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