Insulate Britain protesters could be hit with jail sentences of up to seven years

Police are scrambling to try to lock up Insulate Britain protesters to stop their disruption, as they consider charging them with public nuisance and conspiracy to endanger motorists.

Forces hit by the protests on the M25 and A20 in Dover are investigating potential charges that could carry jail sentences of up to seven years.

Matthew Scott, police and crime commissioner for Kent, where the eco-protesters blocked the road to the port of Dover, said: “We need to see people locked up for this. They are going to keep coming back unless they are physically prevented from doing so.”

Government sources also disclosed that though they had not ruled out the possibility of a nationwide injunction, they acknowledged it could be “disproportionate”. 

“We would be prepared to look at it but they have to be strategies that work,” said a source.

The police detain a protester from Insulate Britain occupying a roundabout leading from the M25 motorway to Heathrow Airport in London

Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

More than 50 Insulate Britain activists were arrested on Monday after they defied an injunction on protests on the M25 by targeting the motorway for the sixth time.

They formed a roadblock on the slip road on Junction 14 near Heathrow airport. The police cleared most quickly with only one man managing to glue his hands to the road.

A police office frisks a protester from Insulate Britain

Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

All 54 protesters were released from custody on Monday night as police and National Highways, which took out the injunction, sought to establish how many had breached the injunction.

It will be up to the highways agency to pursue them for contempt of court, which can carry a jail sentence of up to two years and/or an unlimited fine.

Police officers detain a protester from Insulate Britain

Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Liam Norton, a spokesman for Insulate Britain, said: “You can throw as many injunctions at us as you like, but we are going nowhere.”

Dr Diana Warner, 62, a retired GP from Bristol who is a member of the group, said it was the fifth time she had tried to block a motorway. "I’m really sorry, but I’m determined to do everything I can to make us safe and change society…we have to try," she said.

Revealed: Police must ask protestors to move four times before taking action

It is understood Kent police are looking to prosecute for public nuisance and wilfully obstructing a highway. Public nuisance is infrequently used as a criminal prosecution but, as a common law offence, can be tried in the crown court with sentences of a year or more in the past.

Police are also investigating conspiracy to cause danger to road users, an offence that could be used where there is evidence that protesters stepped into the path of oncoming traffic, as happened last week.

Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act of 1988 makes it illegal to “cause anything to be on or over a road… in such circumstances” that it would be “dangerous”. It carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “Hundreds of arrests have already been made by police in areas that have been affected and officers will continue to act swiftly to stop protesters from causing major disruption to UK motorways and risking their safety and the safety of others.

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