The Criminal Justice Act was used against campaigners opposing the Newbury bypass yesterday after calls for the police to take a harder line. More than 30 people were arrested, mostly for aggravated trespass, during clashes between protesters and security guards.
The Aggravated Trespass Provisions of the contentious 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act have rarely been used against anti-road campaigners for fear of inflaming already volatile situations.
Thames Valley and Hampshire police have faced mounting criticism of their tactics. Assistant Chief Constable Ian Blair of Thames Valley Police, who is in overall charge of the operation, has insisted all week that his officers would be strictly "bipartisan".
Activists have halted work on the road for three days this week, prompting calls from politicians, including the MP for Newbury, David Rendel, for the police to help security guards.
Contractors began felling trees at the southern end of the bypass route at dawn yesterday and cleared about 30 trees before protesters swarmed up the trees. Sixteen people were arrested. Three miles to the north another crew began clearing trees from a disused railway cutting. Protesters climbed trees and began erecting walkways and 18 others were arrested.
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