Ministers are set to seek a new blanket injunction against Insulate Britain protesters to halt their continued court-defying blockades of the M25.
As the eco-activists occupied a junction of the motorway for a seventh day, government sources said they would be asking the judge to do away with having to serve injunctions on the protesters individually.
The move would expand the injunction already in place but which the protesters have defied to continue their protests on the M25. Yesterday they twice blocked the M25 at junction 3 in Kent – at 7.30am and again at 1pm – with a total of 27 people arrested.
It emerged last night that National Highways has already served papers on protesters known to have breached the injunction, warning them that they faced prosecution for contempt of court if they did it again.
“We are already knocking on doors and serving papers to offenders who will be sent to court and could face fines or prison,” said a government source.
Insulate Britain blocking a roundabout at Junction 3 of the M25 on Wednesday
The environmental activists have indicated they will continue blocking the M25 despite facing up to two years in prison
It is understood lawyers are confident they could imminently bring proceedings for contempt, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.
The moves followed a cross-government summit convened on Wednesday by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, amid growing concerns at the apparent failure to halt the Insulate Britain protests.
Sources said Ms Patel emphasised the need swiftly to enforce existing laws including highway obstruction, public nuisance and conspiracy to endanger motorists, which can carry jail sentences.
“The meeting considered the potential effectiveness of further injunctions, while also looking at what further powers might be required in order to protect the public from continued disruption,” said a Government source.
“The contemptible antics of Insulate Britain are no laughing matter for the law-abiding majority whose daily lives are being impacted by their obstructive behaviour.
“The police have our full support in clamping down on these dangerous protests. Across government we are working through the legal and legislative avenues available to ensure that these nonsensical demonstrations can be halted and the judgements of our courts respected.
“Legal, peaceful demonstrations remain a cornerstone of our democracy, but occupying motorways and major roads, putting lives at risk and causing untold harm, is totally unacceptable.”
Lisa Townsend, Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said admitted it was “very difficult” for the police to bring charges. “If they charge the protesters with a relatively minor offence, it is likely to be discontinued but if they try to elevate the charge to a more serious one, they are finding it is not reaching the necessary threshold,” she said.