politics

Priti Patel pushes ahead today with new laws that will send protesters to jail


Last-minute amendments to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill will impose up to six months’ jail on protesters who chain themselves to gates, block a road or block major works

Priti Patel is planning six months' jail for a string of protesters
Priti Patel is planning six months’ jail for a string of protesters

Priti Patel will today push ahead with controversial new laws that could jail protesters for six months.

New offences would force prison terms on activists who lock, chain or glue themselves to railings, gates or other objects.

That could have seen a jail term for Will Young, the Pop Idol singer who padlocked himself to the gates of a puppy breeding facility earlier this month.

The last-minute amendments would also impose six months’ jail on activists who “wilfully” obstruct highways or the construction of major works like HS2.

Courts would get powers to impose “prevention orders” on protesters’ future behaviour, even if they’re not convicted of a crime.

And police would get sweeping new powers to stop and search protesters, even without suspicion a crime was committed.







It could have affected singer Will Young, pictured locked to the gates of a puppy farm
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Image:

CambridgeshireLive/BPM)

Ms Patel claimed the laws were to crack down on groups like Insulate Britain – but opponents said the effect will be far-reaching.

She said: “We have seen some of the most self-defeating and dangerous protests ever seen in recent years with people gluing themselves to roads and locking themselves to vehicles and buildings, causing serious disruption to the law-abiding majority across the country.

“These are selfish actions which drain the police of resources.”

But Liberty has warned the laws “restrict and criminalise protest” on top of measures already agreed in the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill.

Even before the new amendments, the Bill will already make it illegal to inflict “serious annoyance” on a person without reasonable excuse, with up to 10 years’ jail in theory if judges choose.

Existing measures also include imposing up to 10 years’ jail on people who vandalise statues – up from three months.






The Home Office released photos of lock-on protests to show how difficult they are for police





The Home Office released photos of lock-on protests to show how difficult they are for police

And the Bill will create new offences against obstructing the road or using a loudspeaker at the gates of Parliament.

Tory ministers tabled and withdrew the new amendments last week. Today they are being re-tabled in the Lords for a vote.

There is anger because they will not receive detailed Commons scrutiny, only a ‘ping-pong’ vote by MPs in a short debate.

Opposition peers last week accused the Home Office of a “naked attack on civil liberties” in a midnight debate.

Lib Dem peer Lord Paddick, a former senior Met Police officer, said the “outrageous proposals” introduced “in a wholly unacceptable way at the last minute”.

Labour frontbencher Lord Kennedy condemned Insulate Britain tactics but added: “This is no way to do business.”

He added: “Although we are responding to one particularly crass protest, the law being debated would not just apply to that one crass protest but all peaceful protests.”

Pressing the Government to “temper” the measures, he said: “I think at the moment they are totally unacceptable”.

The Home Office pointed out it cost the Met Police nearly £2m to police Insulate Britain protests in less than a month to October 10.

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