Priti Patel demands police arrest and fine protesters causing mayhem on motorways

5 July 2022, 05:49

Priti Patel demands police arrest and fine protesters disrupting traffic
Priti Patel demands police arrest and fine protesters disrupting traffic. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Priti Patel has demanded police to use tough new powers which include imprisonment to stop fuel protesters blocking major roads across the UK.

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The new measures to tackle non-violent demonstrations that cause a significant disruptive impact on the public came into effect on June 28 as part of changes to the law.

Police have been urged by the Home Secretary to take a zero-tolerance approach to fuel campaigners after a group of protesters gridlocked motorways and A-roads yesterday, sparking fears that protests could continue throughout summer.

A Home Office source told the Daily Mail: "Through our Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, we have given the police a wealth of powers to deal with disruptive and damaging protests, including imprisonment and unlimited fines for those blocking a highway - actions which inflict further pain on those affected by rising prices.

"The Home Secretary would encourage and support the police to make use of all the powers available to them.

"Forces need to move people on. These protests are blocking people from getting to work and from carrying out other vital journeys - this is not about whether you believe in the cause or not."

The stance was supported by Downing Street, with a senior Government source telling The Times: "The Government has given the police a lot of powers to deal with this sort of stuff and we are looking to them to use it. We want to know what they are going to do about it."

Read more: Arrests made as protesters block motorways over fuel prices and slam 'greedy' Govt

Some 12 people were arrested on Monday as dozens of campaigners calling for a cut in fuel duty targeted the M4 in South Wales and Somerset, and stretches of the M5 from Devon to Bristol, with rolling go-slow roadblocks in the morning rush-hour.

There were also protests on the A38 in Devon and at a Tesco petrol station in Shepton Mallet.

Further afield, there were demonstrations on the M54 in Shropshire, near the Ferrybridge services in West Yorkshire, on the A64 in the York area, on the M180 near Scunthorpe, and on the A12 in Essex.

The protests, which started at around 7am, are understood to have been organised via social media under the banner Fuel Price Stand Against Tax.

Separately, two climate change protesters were arrested in London after gluing themselves to the frame of John Constable's masterpiece The Hay Wain at the National Gallery.

It came after the latest figures from Experian showed the average price of petrol reached a new high of 191.5p per litre on Sunday, while the average price of diesel was 199.0p per litre.

Read more: What is the petrol price app? How to find the cheapest fuel in your area

Dozens of police vans and hundreds of officers from both Gwent Police and Avon and Somerset Police were at the Prince of Wales Bridge, which runs between England and Wales, at 8.30am when four people were arrested and 10.45am when another eight people were arrested.

Last month, the Competition and Markets Authority launched a "short and focused review" of how much drivers are being charged for fuel after a request by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs last Tuesday he will carefully consider calls for a "more substantial" fuel duty cut.

Vicky, one of those protesting in Cumbria, said she was sacked from her job as she couldn't afford to fill her truck.

She told LBC she is demonstrating to "stop the greedy people at the top fleecing us dry".

"Enough is enough, we've had enough," she said, as she slammed the Government for "making us bankrupt, living in our homes like prisoners".

"We want our freedom back and we are going to take it," she said.