Just Stop Oil should be a proscribed terror group like Islamic State and National Action, says MP

Handcuffed activists from Just Stop Oil lie in a London road as part of their daily Occupy Westminster protests in October - Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Handcuffed activists from Just Stop Oil lie in a London road as part of their daily Occupy Westminster protests in October - Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Just Stop Oil should be considered a terror group like Islamic State or National Action, a Conservative MP has said.

Former minister Gareth Johnson called for the Prime Minister to consider making the eco mob a "proscribed organisation" as he argued "these people are not protesters, they are criminals".

During Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, the former lawyer and justice minister criticised the environmental activist group for blocking the Dartford Crossing in his constituency last month and "causing chaos for days".

The Tory MP asked Rishi Sunak if he would consider proscribing the group "so that they can be treated as the criminal organisation they actually are".

There are currently 78 terrorist organisations proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000 in the UK and 14 organisations in Northern Ireland that were proscribed under previous legislation.

They include groups such as Islamic State, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, far Right group National Action and the IRA.

Asked to support Mr Johnson's call to add Just Stop Oil to that list, the Prime Minister said police have the Government's full support in dealing with "the kinds of demonstrations we have seen recently".

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary may proscribe an organisation if they believe it is concerned in terrorism, and it is proportionate to do.

In the last couple of months, Just Stop Oil has been using civil resistance and direct action as part of its campaign to stop future gas and oil projects from going ahead.

The MP for Dartford said: "Last month Just Stop Oil clambered up the Dartford Crossing, causing chaos for days. They then attacked artworks, the M25 and anything else to cause misery and mayhem.

"These people are not protesters, they are criminals. Will the Prime Minister therefore consider making Just Stop Oil a proscribed organisation so that they can be treated as the criminal organisation they actually are?"

Mr Sunak replied: "The kinds of demonstrations we have seen recently disrupt people's daily lives, they cause mass misery for the public and they put people in danger.

"The police have our full support in their efforts to minimise this disruption and tackle reckless and illegal activity.

"The Public Order Bill will give them the powers they need."

What is a proscribed organisation?

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary may proscribe an organisation if they believe it is concerned in terrorism, and it is proportionate to do. For the purposes of the Act, this means that the organisation:

  • commits or participates in acts of terrorism

  • prepares for terrorism

  • promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism)

  • is otherwise concerned in terrorism

What is meant by ‘terrorism’ in the proscription context?

"Terrorism" as defined in the Act, means the use or threat of action which: involves serious violence against a person; involves serious damage to property; endangers a person’s life (other than that of the person committing the act); creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or section of the public or is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

The use or threat of such action must be designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and must be undertaken for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

What determines whether proscription is proportionate?

If the statutory test is met, the Home Secretary will consider whether to exercise their discretion to proscribe the organisation. In considering whether to exercise this discretion, the Home Secretary will take into account other factors, including:

  • the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities

  • the specific threat that it poses to the UK

  • the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas

  • the extent of the organisation’s presence in the UK

  • the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism.

Chief constable 'truly sorry' for journalist's arrest

A chief constable has told a journalist wrongly arrested while covering Just Stop Oil protests he is "truly sorry" for his officers' actions.

Charlie Hall, who leads Hertfordshire Police, wrote to LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch admitting "on this occasion we clearly got things wrong".

The force was heavily criticised after Ms Lynch described being handcuffed and left in a cell on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance - despite showing officers officially recognised media accreditation.

She had been reporting on the activists from a road bridge over junction 21 of the M25, in Hertfordshire, for around 45 minutes on November 8 when she was approached and questioned by two officers.

Documentary-maker Rich Felgate and photographer Tom Bowles were arrested the day before for trying to capture footage of the activists.

A fourth journalist who has not been publicly named was also arrested on November 7 on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. No further details were available.

Mr Bowles said on Twitter he has also received an apology from the force.

Amid outrage, and senior officers as well as the Prime Minister emphasising the importance of press freedom, Chief Superintendent Jon Hutchinson, from Cambridgeshire Police, was called in to review the force's actions.

Mr Hall's letter said: "He ultimately concludes that your arrest was not justified and that changes in training and command need to be made.

"The review, however, found no evidence to indicate that officers engaged maliciously or deliberately behaved in a manner which fell below that expected of police officers.

"I fully accept, however, that we made mistakes we should not have made."

He added: "Whilst policing public order incidents is fraught with difficulty and there was no malicious intent from my officers, on this occasion we clearly got things wrong.

"I recognise the significant impact that an arrest can have, and on behalf of my organisation I am truly sorry.

"I hope the actions we have taken indicate how seriously we have taken this matter and our clear intent to prevent this from happening again in the future."

The review found the officers were directed to make an arrest and did not establish sufficient grounds for doing so.

It said: "The interaction of officers suggest that arrest was the likely outcome regardless of the information obtained."

The review said the officers lacked understanding of the role of journalists.

"The JSO (Just Stop Oil) activity spanned at least four other police forces, none of whom arrested members of the press," it found.

The force has carried out a review to make sure all public order officers have undergone awareness training about the work of the media, and an assessment of the number and experience of its public order commanders.

It is also bringing in measures to make sure commanders have access to public order advisers and mentors when carrying out operations.