'It's disgusting': Eco-protesters condemn government plan to jail 'guerilla' activists for a year

·4-min read
The new bill will look to curb the threat of groups such as Insulate Britain (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The new bill will look to curb the threat of groups such as Insulate Britain (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

An environmental group has condemned “disgusting” government plans to lock up protesters for up to 12 months under proposed new laws.

On Tuesday, ministers launched a fresh attempt to crack down on disruptive “guerrilla protests”, with harsher sentences and new criminal offences.

The Public Order Bill will outlaw tactics in England and Wales such as protesters “locking on” to public transport infrastructure or gluing themselves to raids, which have been adopted by campaign groups such as Insulate Britain.

Watch: Prince Charles delivers the Queen's Speech

This includes a maximum of 12 months for “interfering with key national infrastructure” such as airpots, railways and printing presses.

The bill targets groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, which have been responsible for a series of disruptive protests in recent years.

Craig Scudder of Insulate Britain told Yahoo News UK: "I feel like I am living in a world where things are upside down, because it makes no sense to me that the experts about this are being ignored by the politicians and that is really endangering everything we hold dear today.

”I am really saddened that we have politicians that are more interested in smashing the fire alarm instead of heeding the warning'.

Insulate Britain has called for the government to insulate all social housing by 2025 and a create a national plan for a "low energy and low carbon" retrofit of all homes by 2030.

Scudder added: "Apart from throwing a bit of red meat to the kind of Tory base, I am not sure what wheeling out new maximum sentencing guidelines are going to do in reality."

Watch: Protesters glue hands to business department in London

The past two years have seen an increasing number of protests by environmental activists.

In September 2021, Insulate Britain launched a spate of blockades across the M25 leading to hundreds of arrests and massive disruption.

The group also disrupted roads in Birmingham and Manchester with the protests culminating in November in which over 60 protesters blocked roads near Parliament Square.

In September 2020, Extinction Rebellion blocked roads outside the Newsprinters in Hertfordshire, impacting the delivery of newspapers across the UK for a day. As a result, there was a shortage of The Sun, The Telegraph, The Times and the Daily Mail.

Scudder, who was present for the blockade, said of the proposals aimed at protecting printing presses: "It shows who's tune they are dancing too.”

He continued: "Instead of listening to the ordinary people who are trying to highlight that we are not doing enough they're more likely to listen to these ultra-rich oligarchs who have their own agendas, it is disgusting.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas also condemned the Bill: "This is not a public order bill – it’s a public oppression bill. Will be working cross party again to defeat. Our right to peaceful protest should be protected, not attacked. Shame on the Government for bringing back these dangerous proposals #QueensSpeech."

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the Bill will "tackle the rise in dangerous, self-defeating guerrilla protest tactics that disrupt the hard-working majority from going about their days, getting to work & even hospital. It backs police to take proactive action & prevent such disruption from happening.”

What does the Public Order Bill actually say:

Introduces new criminal offences of locking-on and going equipped to lock-on, criminalising the protest tactic of individuals recklessly or intentionally attaching themselves to others, objects or buildings to cause serious disruption. The penalty being up to six months imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

Introduces a new criminal offence of obstructing major transport works. This will cover any behaviours which obstruct or interferes with the construction or maintenance of significant transport projects such as High Speed 2. The penalty being up to six months imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

Provides for a new criminal offence of interfering with key national infrastructure. This covers any behaviour which obstructs or delays the use or operation of key infrastructure, such as airports, railways, oil refineries and printing presses. The penalty being up to 12 months imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

More info can be found on the gov.uk website