Herts police and crime commissioner David Lloyd welcomes new anti-protest laws
New laws to tackle protesters who block motorways and interfere with national infrastructure have been welcomed by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Hertfordshire.
The powers outlined in the Queen's Speech include a new criminal offence of "locking on" – the tactic of individuals intentionally attaching themselves to others, objects or buildings to cause serious disruption – and also tougher court orders against repeat offenders.
PCC David Lloyd said: "I recognise and respect the right to protest as a cornerstone of everybody living in a free country. But over the last few years Hertfordshire in particular has seen a rise in protester activity purely aimed at causing maximum disruption to many thousands of people who are just trying to go about their everyday business."
In the last year, protesters from Insulate Britain, Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have repeatedly held up traffic on the M25 in the county, targeted the Buncefield oil depot in Hemel Hempstead and prevented lorries delivering national newspapers from printing presses in Waltham Cross.
Mr Lloyd said: "Each time these events happen I hear from the public, the vast majority of whom tell me they want tougher action taken. Apart from the frustration and widespread misery, lives are being put at risk.
"I welcome the proposed Bill, which would prevent a minority of protesters from using guerrilla tactics that disrupt the public, businesses and interfere with emergency services.
"It would ensure police have the tools they need to manage and tackle dangerous and disruptive protest tactics better, as well as to prevent major transport projects and infrastructure from being targeted."
The main elements of the Public Order Bill are:
- New criminal offences of locking on and going equipped to lock on
- Making it illegal to obstruct major transport works, including disrupting construction or maintenance of projects such as HS2
- Creating a new criminal offence for interfering with key national infrastructure, which covers any behaviour which obstructs or delays airports, railways and printing presses
- Extending stop-and-search powers for police to look for and seize articles related to protest-related offences
- Introducing Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, a new court order targeting protesters who are determined to repeatedly inflict disruption on the public; breach of the order will be a criminal offence.