Priti Patel pledges six months in prison and unlimited fines for M25 eco protesters

3 October 2021, 20:45 | Updated: 3 October 2021, 23:54

Tougher punishments will be introduced for climate change activists.
Tougher punishments will be introduced for climate change activists. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Priti Patel is set to announce tougher powers to deal with eco protesters who have caused chaos on the M25.

The move follows days of protests by Insulate Britain activists, who have staged sit-down demonstrations on a series of major London roads.

The Home Secretary is set to warn that protesters who block the highway could face unlimited fines and up to six months in jail.

Police will also be given the powers to stop and search activists for "lock-on" equipment used to prevent them from being moved.

The new measures will be included as part of the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill currently going through Parliament.

Ministers argued that while they accept the right to protest, the current offence of obstructing the highway, which carries a maximum fine of £1,000, does not reflect the seriousness of the disruption.

Read more: Government takes out fresh injunction against M25 eco protesters

Read more: Eco protesters blockade M25 yet again, defying threats of jail time

Ahead of her speech at the Tory conference, Ms Patel said: "The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy but we will not tolerate guerrilla tactics that obstruct people going about their day-to-day business."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: "This Government will always stand on the side of the law-abiding majority and ensure the toughest penalties possible for criminals who deliberately bring major roads to a standstill.

"We will give the police the powers they need to stop their reckless and selfish behaviour."

Read more: Eco protesters defy jail threat and block M25 junction for second time on same day

Read more: 53 Insulate Britain eco-protesters released by police as govt slams ‘guerrilla tactics’

It comes after the Government took out a fresh injunction against Insulate Britain activists on Saturday, banning them from obstructing traffic and access to motorways and major A Roads in and around London.

National Highways previously took out two injunctions to prevent action along the M25, as well as major roads around the Port of Dover, following the disruption.

On Friday, demonstrators sat on the road at Junction 3 of the M4 near Heathrow Airport, west London, Junction 1 of the M1 at Brent Cross, north London, and Junction 25 of the M25 at Waltham Cross, north London.