New powers to crack down on ‘disruptive’ protests come into force

The new powers will allow police to move static protests

New measures to crack down on environmental activists come into force from Sunday, including an expansion of police powers and a new criminal offence of tunnelling.

The British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police will now have powers to move static protests, a common tactic of campaigners.

The Home Office said the move would free up officers, as Suella Braverman hit out at “mayhem” on the streets.

Environmental campaigners such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have continued to hold demonstrations and protests.

The report could bolster Home Secretary Suella Braverman as she tries to toughen up on net migration. Credit: PA

Ministers have sought to use enhanced public order powers to target the tactics often used by those groups.

From July 2, being found guilty of tunnelling or “being present in a tunnel to cause serious disruption” could see people jailed for up to three years.

Being found guilty of taking equipment to tunnel will carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison, while anyone guilty of obstructing a major transport works could face the same punishment.

The Home Office has said that tunnelling at locations such as HS2 construction sites was costing the taxpayer money and said that from Sunday obstructing the building or maintenance of future transport networks was now illegal.

But critics have argued that the toughening up of laws are a threat to the right to protest.

“Hard-working people want to be able to go about their daily lives without disruption from a selfish minority,” Ms Braverman said.

“The Public Order Act is delivering on our commitment to allow people to get on with their daily business. We will keep our roads and those hard-working people moving.

“The public have had enough of their lives being disrupted by selfish protesters. The mayhem we’ve seen on our streets has been a scandal.

“That is why I’ve given our police officers the powers they need to act fast and clamp down on these protesters determined to disrupt people’s lives.”

She said that the changes that come into force on Sunday would also ensure “the protection of journalists reporting on protests so they can carry out their important role without fear of arrest”.

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