M25 Blocked by Protestors – Cost: £1 million and More

Yesterday (13/9/2021) the M25 was blocked in several places by protestors claiming to be from a group called “Insulate Britain”. This is a new group wanting to persuade the Government to pay to insulate all Britain’s homes but they look very much like a front for Extinction Rebellion (XR) . For example they are not doing it to save residents money by cutting heating bills. Their web site says it is “part of a just transition to full decarbonisation of all parts of society and the economy”. In other words it’s an organisation that is focussed on CO2 emissions and alleged global warming. They presumably think it is more palatable to the general public, particularly those who live in social housing, to promote this rather than the normal XR agenda.

This demonstration was well organised in advance with media representatives in attendance. It closed several sections of the M25 for several hours before the police managed to remove them. Over 90 arrests were made but will they be charged and significant penalties imposed? It seems unlikely.

The M25 takes as many as 200,000 vehicles per day and Monday morning is one of the busiest times. So this hold up could have delayed 100,000 people as well as having a wider impact on the road network as drivers diverted. At a cost of £10 per hour that could mean a cost of over £1 million imposed on innocent people. Plus of course the cost of the police time involved in the events. Surely the culprits should be made to pay that and more? See Reference 2 below for Daily Mail coverage of the demonstrations.

Some people stuck in the traffic queues attempted to remove the protestors but were stopped by the police from interfering. Yet again the police are shown to be toothless in preventing obstruction of the highway which is against the law. See Reference 1 below for previous comments on why the police do nothing.

There is currently a Bill passing through Parliament (see Reference 3) which will make it easier for police to take action to prevent similar demonstration. It is surely long overdue.

But will it solve the problem? Not if the penalties for causing such disruption are so trivial. As financial penalties are no deterrent to the type of people involved in these events, a lengthy spell in prison (and not suspended sentences) are surely the only answer.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2018/12/19/demonstrations-blocking-roads-and-why-the-police-do-nothing/

Reference 2: Daily Mail article on the M25 demonstrations: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9984953/Motorists-clash-Insulate-Britain-climate-activists-blocking-M25.html

Reference 3: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-factsheets/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-protest-powers-factsheet

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Is the Police Bill Disproportionate?

After the events over the weekend in Bristol, which effectively degenerated into a riot with several police officers injured, it’s worth considering the issues raised. The demonstrations under the banner “Kill the Bill” (a very provocative phrase as Bill is often used as a name for the police), were aimed at stopping the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through Parliament. This is a long and complex piece of legislation but you can read a summary of it by the BBC here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56400751

Apart from the fact that the Bristol demonstrations were a clear breach of the Covid regulations re public gatherings, this legislation to tighten up the rules around public demonstrations was surely long overdue. In fact after the campaigns by Extinction Rebellion which closed bridges across the Thames in London in 2018, I wrote to Cressida Dick (head of the Metropolitan Police) on the issue. This is some of what I said: “These [demonstrations] have caused very considerable disruption to traffic which the police have done nothing about apparently. Obstructing the public highway is an offence, as presumably you are well aware, so why are the police not intervening to stop these demonstrations?”

I got a long and complex reply effectively saying the current state of the law made it difficult to halt these events. The new legislation is clearly aimed at giving the police clearer powers which is surely to be welcomed.

I don’t think anyone objects to peaceful demonstrations that enable protestors to bring issues to the attention of the public. But when they obstruct traffic, close roads, or otherwise harass people going about their normal business then it is time to step in to stop them.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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