Protesters who climb onto war memorials face three months in jail and £1,000 fine under new law

4 February 2024, 08:19

James Cleverly is tightening the law around memorials
James Cleverly is tightening the law around memorials. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Protesters who clamber onto war memorials face three months in jail and a fine of up to £1,000 under new plans.

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Home secretary James Cleverly wants to toughen up the law around monuments after pro-Palestinian demonstrators climbed onto the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner in November.

Footage posted on X sparked outrage but the police said they were effectively powerless to stop it because there was not a specific law against it.

The Home Office said a tough new punishment would "stop protesters disrespecting those who have given their lives for our country".

When footage emerged of people clambering over the memorial, the Met said: "We know some online have asked why the protesters were not arrested.

Read more: Climbing over war memorials 'not illegal but unfortunate', Met chief says after outrage at pro-Palestine demonstrators

"There is no law explicitly making it illegal to climb on a memorial so officers cannot automatically arrest, but they can intervene and make it clear the behaviour isn't acceptable. The videos shared online show them doing that."

The protesters had split from a pro-Palestine march in central London and went to Hyde Park Corner.

The Met's commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said: "The officer recognised that while it wasn't illegal it was unfortunate, inflammatory in certain ways. The officers at the scene asked them to get down and they did.

"So the officers intervened as officers often do to try and de-escalate risk of conflict, even when there isn't an explicit power to do it. So I think they did a sensible thing."

Mr Cleverly, a reservist in the Royal Artillery, said at the time: "I'm not going to let my personal feelings cloud my judgment on this but it is clearly wrong, and the police have said that they recognise it is deeply disrespectful for people to climb on war memorials.

"We have made a commitment to review the legislation around public order policing.

"If the police - and I'm going to look at this in real detail - if the police need more powers to make sure that really deeply distasteful, provocative things like that do not happen for the public good, because of course this is about making sure it doesn't stimulate violent action or any kind of violent responses, but if we need to take action specifically to give police more powers, we are looking at doing that."

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