Tuesday, 6 Dec 2022

Suella Braverman attacks police for failing to stop eco mob

Just Stop Oil: Driver reveals he missed father’s funeral

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The Home Secretary warned officers they must take a “firmer line” to clamp down on environmental protesters blocking highways and vandalising public buildings. Calling for more “common sense policing”, she blasted forces for being too soft on activists.

“Too often, the rights of protesters are placed above the rights of others,” she said.

Ms Braverman hit out after a police motorcyclist was injured in a lorry crash during a third day of protests on the M25.

The Home Secretary told the Daily Express that the government’s new Public Order Bill will “finally get a grip” on demonstrators who are holding the country to ransom.

It will empower Ministers to block protests causing serious disruption to key infrastructure and goods and give police officers more powers to act.

Protests carried out by environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil have provoked widespread anger in recent weeks and months.

Their guerrilla tactics – including disrupters glueing themselves to highways, blocking ambulances and vandalising public buildings – have cost taxpayers millions of pounds and wasted 10,000 police shifts.

Ms Braverman’s patience snapped at the annual conference for chief constables and police and crime commissioners.

Taking a hard line on how police should deal with protesters, she warned: “Although most police officers do an excellent job, sadly, in recent months and years we have seen an erosion of confidence in the police to take action against the radicals, the road-blockers, the vandals, the militants and the extremists.

“But we have also seen the police appear to lose confidence in themselves – in yourselves, in your authority, in your power – an institutional reluctance. This must change.”

The Home Secretary added: “Criminal damage, obstructing the highway, public nuisance – none of it should be humoured. It is not a human right to vandalise a work of art. It is not a civil liberty to stop ambulances getting to the sick and injured.

“Such disruption is a threat to our way of life. It does not ‘further a cause’. It is not ‘freedom of expression’ and I want to reassure you that you have my – and this Government’s – full backing in taking a firmer line to safeguard public order. Indeed, that is your duty.

“Scenes of members of the public taking the law into their own hands are a sign of a loss of confidence and I urge you all to step up to your public duties in policing protests.

“The law-abiding patriotic majority is on your side. This is what common sense policing means.”

Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, denied that police were too soft and said that “we have gone as fast as we think we can do”.

He joked that he had checked whether he could use snipers on people who scale gantries but “we can’t”.

On a serious note, he said that the police were using angle grinders to remove locks protesters have used to attach themselves to gantries on the M25 around London in several days of disruption this week but “we can’t take off the limbs at the same time”.

He added: “There are limits to how you can do this sort of thing at speed. We are turning up at those scenes very quickly.”

Later, Ms Braverman warned eco-zealots “the public aren’t behind you”.

She told the Daily Express: “In just a few short weeks we have seen over 700 arrests, millions wasted from the taxpayer’s purse and police having to use up more than 10,000 of their officers’ shifts – these are the ‘accomplishments’ of a group of protesters determined to disrupt the lives of the British people.

“That’s police resources that could have been spent in our communities, protecting young kids from knife crime, women and girls from harassment and our homes from burglary.

“This isn’t something to be proud of. Locking yourself onto motorway bridges is extremely dangerous for everyone, a police officer was injured just yesterday. It is also completely self-defeating. The public are not behind you.”

She added: “Many of the recent arrests were made under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act brought in by this government, which significantly minimised disruption to the public.

“But I know Express readers want more done and I agree. We absolutely must get our Public Order Bill passed into law, so we can finally get a grip of the selfish minority determined to inflict mass disruption on the public.”

Britain’s busiest motorway ground to a halt again at rush hour on Wednesday as 10 eco-campaigners climbed onto overhead gantries at various junctions.

Police chiefs insisted they responded quickly and worked swiftly to remove the protesters safely.

At least one Just Stop Oil activist attached himself to a gantry with a bicycle D-lock around his neck. The lock had to be “carefully” cut off with a angle grinder.

Stretches of the M25 in London, Surrey, Essex, Kent and Herts were again disrupted by the protests.

The police motorcyclist was injured in a collision near Waltham Abbey, Essex,

Just Stop Oil said in a statement: “The collision of two lorries and the injury of a police officer on the M25 this morning is an awful situation.

“The level of disruption being witnessed on the M25 should not be happening – people are rightly angry and frustrated.”

According to Just Stop Oil, its supporters have been arrested more than 2,000 times since its campaign began on April 1, and 15 are currently in prison.

Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt told the body’s joint annual conference that police are not anti-protest but are “pro-responsibility”.

He said: “This week we are seeing protests on the road network. A combination of proactivity and preparedness meant we have been able to reopen the busy motorways quickly.

“Working with government and other agencies we continue to use civil injunctions as well as our criminal powers to minimise disruption.”

The Road Haulage Association said: “Roads are a lorry driver’s place of work so disruption is always going to be frustrating for them. Time is money in our industry – and delays adds cost to moving goods which will be felt along the supply chain, so it’s not only the hauliers suffering it’s the others relying on them too. That could be supermarkets which means the extra costs moving groceries to our local stores could be passed on through higher prices at the till – that affects all of us, especially as the cost of living crisis bites hard.”

Priest among seven held

Seven alleged ringleaders of the Just Stop Oil protests on the M25 were in custody last night. The group included former dentist and part-time priest Tim Hewes plus organic farmer Roger Hallam, who lives in a £1million London flat.

The seven were remanded in custody at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court, charged with plotting to cause a public nuisance. Another alleged ringleader was given bail. All eight were arrested in what Scotland Yard called a “pre-emptive” operation involving several police forces on Sunday.

Hewes, 72, of Wantage, Oxon, and Hallam, 56, from Walworth, south London, will appear at London’s Southwark Crown Court next month.

Police held 22 people as Just Stop Oil activists scaled gantries over the orbital motorway on Monday and Tuesday. Further arrests were made on Wednesday. They were all charged with causing a public nuisance. Four were remanded in custody while the others were bailed.

Hewes, Hallam and the other alleged ringleaders may face lengthy prison sentences if they are found guilty.

Following Sunday’s arrests, the Metropolitan Police said: “The Met has launched a significant proactive policing operation to identify and arrest people we have strong reason to believe are intent on causing reckless and serious disruption to the public.” The spokesman added: “We have worked with surrounding forces and the National Police Coordination Centre to ensure that there is a joined-up response to this clear threat.”

The Met said 111 people had been arrested and charged from the end of September and during last month.

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