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Priti Patel launches crackdown on eco-activists with new Asbo-style travel ban

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 04/10/2021 Charles Hymas, Mason Boycott-Owen
A protester from Insulate Britain is dragged from the road by a motorist © Provided by The Telegraph A protester from Insulate Britain is dragged from the road by a motorist

Eco-activists face new Asbo-style court orders that will ban them from travelling around the UK to mount disruptive protests under plans announced on Tuesday by Priti Patel.

The Home Secretary will unveil the new criminal disruption protection orders targeted at protesters such as Insulate Britain who have evaded injunctions and used loopholes in current laws to cause traffic chaos by blocking motorways and roads across the network.

Speaking at the Tory party conference in Manchester, Ms Patel will also announce a new offence of criminal interference of critical national infrastructure including roads, railways, ports and airports as well as printing presses to prevent distribution of newspapers.

Six-month jail sentences

The new offences - to be included in the Government’s new crime bill - are expected to carry jail sentences of up to six months and/or unlimited fines, enabling police to remand protesters in custody to prevent them mounting repeat offences after being bailed.

It follows the announcement at the weekend that the maximum sentence for obstruction of a highway will be increased from a £1,000 fine to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

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Ms Patel will say: “Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our Party will forever fight to uphold. But it must be within the law.

“Measures already going through Parliament will ensure these criminals can be brought to justice for the disruption they are causing. But we are going further to close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders.”

'We are throwing the book at them'

A Tory source said: “We are throwing the book at them. Never again will the police be able to say they don’t have enough powers to deal with protesters.”

The new criminal disruption protection orders echo the anti-social behaviour orders introduced by Tony Blair in 1996 to impose curfews and restrictions on thugs terrorising communities.

Ms Patel will say police will be able to apply to the courts for the orders to crack down on “the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities.”

It follows multiple blockades of the M25, M1, M4 and roads to Dover by Insulate Britain protesters in defiance of injunctions by National Highways and arrests by police for obstructing highways and public nuisance.

Police will also be able to use the new offence of interfering with critical infrastructure for protests on major motorways and roads. It is also designed to prevent a repeat of the blockade of printing presses in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, in 2020 that disrupted distribution of national newspapers.

The new measures are expected to be enacted early next year as amendments to the Government’s police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which is due to be considered by the Lords in November.

XR founder 'would block ambulance'

It came as the founder of Extinction Rebellion and inspiration for Insulate Britain said he would block the path of an ambulance carrying a dying patient, after a tearful driver on Monday pleaded with climate protesters to let her see her elderly mother in a Kent hospital.

Asked if he would have moved, Roger Hallam said not only would he not move for the woman in yesterday’s protests, he would also block an ambulance even if there was a patient inside who could die as a direct result of his actions.

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