Priti Patel to unveil draconian new powers to stop climate activists travelling to protests

Crackdown will also allow police to stop and search protesters for glue, handcuffs or chains

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 04 October 2021 22:44
Comments
Insulate Britain protesters target M4 motorway

Priti Patel will unveil draconian new powers to stop climate activists travelling to protests and to allow police to search them for equipment such as glue, handcuffs or chains.

The measures, to be called criminal disruption prevention orders, will bar repeat protesters from going to demonstrations, the home secretary will say – reviving memories of the targeting of striking miners attempting to reach pickets in the 1980s.

And a second crackdown will introduce stop-and-search powers in respect of people who are suspected of carrying items that would allow them to attach themselves to motorways.

The plans come amid growing Conservative fury about the way the group Insulate Britain has continued to block major roads, evading attempts to stop it.

Ms Patel has already announced that protesters blockading routes will face jail sentences of up to six months – increasing the punishment from a £1,000 fine.

And ministers are applying for a new, single court order to ban protests on all major roads in southeast England, after traffic was brought to a standstill on the M4 and the M1 as well as the M25, which is already covered by an injunction.

Ms Patel will announce the additional measures in her Conservative Party conference speech, vowing to “close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders”.

“So, today, I can announce I will increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, criminalise interference with key infrastructure such as roads, railways and our free press, and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country causing disruption and misery across our communities,” she will tell the Manchester gathering.

The criminal disruption prevention orders will target “prolific offenders” to stop them from “attending particular protests” if they are considered “likely to commit a criminal offence”.

“We see a small number of prolific offenders travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery to others, most recently in repeated attempts to block the M25,” a Tory source said.

At present, a police officer can carry out a stop-and-search in relation to someone believed to be planning to commit an offence – but this will be extended to those who are suspected of carrying equipment for a protest.

The measures will be added to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that is currently going through parliament, which already allows a clampdown on demonstrations considered to be “noisy”.

In her speech, Ms Patel will also pledge to step up her campaign to stop migrants and refugees crossing the Channel, including controversial plans for Border Force to push back small boats.

The home secretary will say that those attempting to make the crossing are coming from “vast camps outside Calais of mainly male, economic migrants” and are being “exploited by people-smugglers”, who she calls “vile criminals characterised by ruthlessness and greed, who even threaten to drown small children to line their pockets.

“At the heart of this plan is a simple principle: control. That is not unreasonable. Through our New Plan for Immigration, Britain will be fair but firm.”

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