Gaza protests have cost police more than £25m as MPs warn demonstrations put other force priorities at risk

27 February 2024, 01:14 | Updated: 27 February 2024, 01:22

Protesters should have to provide more notice ahead of demonstrations, the Home Affairs Committee has suggested.
Protesters should have to provide more notice ahead of demonstrations, the Home Affairs Committee has suggested. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Police have incurred more than £25 million in costs from protests that have taken place since Hamas launched its attack on Israel on October 7.

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The Home Office has been urged to consider requiring protest organisers to give police more notice of demonstrations if they continue to take place at the frequency and scale of those over the conflict in the Middle East.

It comes as the Home Affairs Committee (HAC) released a report revealing the pressure police forces have faced amid ongoing protests in recent months.

The report found that protests over the conflict in Gaza have put the well-being of officers at risk as more than 4,000 rest days were cancelled in the three-month period to ensure protests are policed safely.

It also found demonstrations, and the "disruptive tactics" of some participants, are causing "unsustainable pressure" on policing resources - particularly of those in London.

Representatives from the Metropolitan Police said policing demonstrations over the Middle East conflict have led to "the greatest period of sustained pressure on the Met since the Olympics in 2012".

The cross-party committee warned in its findings that the continued pressure from such demonstrations could impact the police response to everyday matters.

The report said: "Should these protests continue indefinitely, it stands to reason that forces will be less able to carry out the everyday neighbourhood and response policing that is so vital to the public.

"If the protests continue to take place as frequently at this scale, the Home Office should consider amending requirements for protest organisers, such as increasing the notice period for protest organisers to inform the police from the current six days, to allow the police to prepare better."

There has been an increase in pressure on police due to the number of protests since the October attack.
There has been an increase in pressure on police due to the number of protests since the October attack. Picture: Alamy

According to the report, policing the protests between October 7 and December 17 last year cost forces across the UK more than £25 million.

It cost the Metropolitan Police an estimated £18.9 million and other police forces a collective £6.5 million, from the same date to December 10.

The HAC also highlighted that the Government has not updated its plan to tackle hate crime since 2020.

Recent figures show the number of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate crimes has risen dramatically in the UK since October 7.

HAC chairwoman Dame Diana Johnson said: "It is deeply dispiriting to see the fight against hate crime get stuck in Home Office limbo."

The HAC’s report has been criticised by protest groups, however, as the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAC) said it failed to “address the increasingly urgent need to restore the confidence of the British public and ensure the safety of this country's Jewish community”.

They added: "After months of intimidatory marches, this report offers no concrete recommendations for the here and now, just a long-term policy discussion about workforce planning and new laws that will take years to agree.

"Millions of pounds are being diverted from fighting crime into policing these relentless marches. The Jewish community is in fear and our city centres remain no-go zones during the protests. We need action urgently."

Harriet Harman suggests a 'hybrid' model for MPs

In its findings, the committee also expressed concern over recent instances of protesters gathering outside of MPs’ offices.

The HAC said: “Whilst we respect the right to protest, we are clear that no one, including elected representatives, their families, and their staff, should be made to feel unsafe by protest activity outside their home.”

"Likewise, no one should be intimidated when they are coming and going from their place of work."

Mother of the House of Commons Harriet Harman told LBC on Monday evening that a hybrid model of working could be explored as a potential option for MPs amid fears for their safety.

Speaking to LBC’s Andrew Marr, Ms Harman said: “One of the things that I think could come out of a Speaker's Conference is an agreement that actually we could go back to hybrid again, which is that sometimes MPs could speak in the Chamber, sometimes they could speak from their constituency.

“And that's something I would propose to a Speaker's Conference, so if somebody feels particularly under pressure, they can still participate in the Commons, but not in a way that makes them feel vulnerable.”

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