Case Studies

JSO to ignore latest law change

by Mark Rowe

Anti-fossil fuel and anti-climate change protesters say that they will carry on despite Home Secretary Suella Braverman hailing a change in the law to combat a protest tactic of slow marching in the road. Under a new definition of ‘serious disruption’, police can now assess the cumulative impact of protests on a place, rather than treating each incident separately.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, pictured, said: “The public are sick of Just Stop Oil’s selfish and self-defeating actions, which achieve nothing towards their cause. Chief constables and I agree that police officers should be out fighting crime. They shouldn’t be forced to stand by as protestors block our roads and the public shouldn’t have to take matters in their own hands.

“This new definition of serious disruption means police can stop slow marchers, to reclaim our right to get to work, hospital and go about our daily lives.”

Just Stop Oil (JSO) however has responded that it will carry on making a slow march at midday every Saturday, at Parliament Square in central London.

The Public Order Act 2023 brought in new criminal offences and proper penalties for disruptive protest acts such as ‘locking on’ to objects. A court can give a repeat offender a Serious Disruption Prevention Order, which can lead to a prison sentence. However only a handful of JSO protesters have been jailed so far, described by JSO as ‘political prisoners’. JSO regardless of the law change has continued to state that it will continue an ‘indefinite campaign of civil resistance’.

While slow marches have been around London, including on bridges, JSO has also stated that it’s disrupted an opera at the Glyndebourne Festival in Sussex.

Background

Ms Braverman and previous Home Secretary Priti Patel have sought to close legal loopholes exploited by protesters, as in this year’s Public Order Bill which follows the public order measures in Part 3 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 which, amongst other things, updated the powers in the 1986 Public Order Act. Among the places targeted by protesters are the HS2 rail line from London to the Midlands; and airports, railways, newspaper printing presses and downstream oil and gas infrastructure, all treated in the most recent Public Order Bill.

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