Eco mob vow more mayhem on the M25 hours after Priti threatened to lock them up

22 September 2021, 09:14 | Updated: 22 September 2021, 16:26

By Will Taylor

The group of eco-protesters who brought misery to hundreds of thousands of motorists over the past week have said they plan to continue disrupting motorways, just hours after being told they could face jail if they continue.

A court granted an injunction today stopping the 'Insulate Britain' eco mob from protesting on the M25. But hours later, in front of the Home Office, the defiant group said: "The injunction changes nothing."

Speaking on a loudspeaker at a protest in central London, one of the group said: "If I'm arrested at any time, at a convenient moment I will go out and I will continue to obstruct highways."

Government ministers applied for a court order to stop the activists from causing huge disruption after days of them blocking traffic.

On Wednesday morning, transport secretary Grant Shapps said a judge granted an injunction last night - which will see the activists facing contempt of court proceedings, and a possible jail term, if they breach the order.

Home Office minister Kit Malthouse gave more details of the interim injunction, telling MPs: "This injunction prohibits people from blocking, endangering, slowing down, obstructing or otherwise preventing the free flow of traffic on the M25.

"If they breach the injunction or encourage or help others to do so, people will be held in contempt of court and may be imprisoned or fined. The fine is unlimited.

"This should act as a major deterrent and recognises this law-breaking is serious with consequences that match the offending."

Mr Malthouse also said at least 270 arrests have been made in recent days in connection with the protests, adding: "Delays caused by protests between September 13 and 17 have cost drivers in excess of half-a-million pounds, and that figure does not take into account the knock-on effect for the local road network, for manufacturing businesses, or those who miss their connections at ports."

Watch: Camilla Tominey blasts police for offering 'assistance' to Insulate Britain protesters

Insulate Britain insisted it has not yet seen the injunction and will continue its campaign.

The campaigners dangerously escalated their protest on Tuesday, when they defied police and ran out into traffic on the M25, causing long tailbacks and drawing condemnation from ministers and motorists.

Police soon dragged activists off the motorway and arrested 38 people across various protest sites on Tuesday.

Mr Shapps tweeted: "Invading a motorway is reckless & puts lives at risk.

"I asked National Highways to seek an injunction against M25 protestors which a judge granted last night. Effective later today, activists will face contempt of court with possible imprisonment if they flout."

The injunction prevents activists from "blocking, endangering, slowing down, preventing, or obstructing the free flow of traffic onto or along or off the M25 for the purposes of protesting".

Mr Shapps said if they "don't take note then they could be in contempt of court and that could incur imprisonment".

Speaking to MPs on the House of Commons Transport Committee, he added they could also risk being fined and said the injunction will "strengthen" the police's ability to stop the demonstrations.

Read more: M25 protests: 38 arrested as cops warn activists are 'risking injury or death'

Speaking earlier on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, environment secretary George Eustice confirmed: "What we are now doing as a Government is applying for an injunction that will seek to give them the powers to act pre-emptively, before these sorts of dangerous protests take place.

"It is a danger to road safety on a motorway to have people causing this sort of disruption, we all believe in the right to protest and we'll always support that but we've got to also balance that against other people's rights to go about their daily business, and also road safety, which is obviously of critical importance."

Reports also suggest the activists' offences are comparatively minor and do not usually come with a custodial sentence – meaning they are not always remanded in custody even if they are charged.

Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned Tuesday's scenes. She said: "Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and there will always be space for legitimate groups to make their voices heard. That space is not on a busy motorway putting lives at risk.

"This Government will not stand by and allow a small minority of selfish protesters to cause significant disruption to the lives and livelihoods of the hard-working majority.

"The guerrilla tactics used by Insulate Britain detract from their cause and I know the public will agree that the scenes on the M25 last week and today are completely unacceptable.

Read more: 'Don't lecture me!' Nick Ferrari tears a strip off M25 eco mob protester

Read more: M25 closure: Who are Insulate Britain and what were they protesting?

"The police have our full support. They must uphold the law and take decisive action. This kind of disruption is dangerous and takes police away from communities where they are needed most."

The disruption caused by the group has been condemned. LBC has heard from a caller who said his mother suffered a stroke and he was severely delayed en route to get help because of the demonstration.

In a statement, Insulate Britain said: "We understand that an injunction was granted against Insulate Britain in the High Court last night.

"We do not know the terms of the injunction and right now our campaign goes on.

"We appreciate that Priti Patel is in a difficult position. Like her, our biggest concern is law and order and our national security. In focusing on us, Priti Patel is missing the bigger picture.

"Currently 8,500 people a year die unnecessarily in the UK because of their frozen homes and climate collapse presents an incalculable threat to our way of life.

"A more measured way in which she could discharge her ministerial responsibility would be to ask the Prime Minister to start the process of insulating Britain's leaky homes. As soon as the government makes a meaningful statement that we can trust, we will leave the motorway."