M25 protests: Injunction granted to curb Insulate Britain activists

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Police remove activists from the motorway as protestors from Insulate Britain block the M25 motorway near Cobham in Surrey on September 21, 2021 - Guy Smallman/Getty Images
Police remove activists from the motorway as protestors from Insulate Britain block the M25 motorway near Cobham in Surrey on September 21, 2021 - Guy Smallman/Getty Images

National Highways has been granted an injunction against M25 protesters, which will come into effect this afternoon and means activists will face possible imprisonment, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Mr Shapps vowed to ensure "guerrilla" activists "cannot keep disrupting and endangering people's lives".

The legal action came after members of the environmental group ran into moving traffic on the M25 at junctions 9 and 10 on Tuesday, prompting police and the AA to warn the "dangerous" behaviour "put lives at risk" and could cause "multiple fatalities."

The injunction prohibits people from blocking, endangering, slowing down, obstructing or otherwise preventing the free flow of traffic on the M25, Home Office minister Kit Malthouse told MPs.

Any breach of the injunction would be Contempt of Court with a maximum jail sentence of two years, a serious enough offence for police to be able to remand protesters in custody and prevent them causing further disruption.

"If they breach the injunction or encourage or help others to do so, people... may be imprisoned or fined. The fine is unlimited," Mr Malthouse added.

Ms Patel said the "important injunction" would mean "people can get moving again" on the M25.

"We will not tolerate lives being put at risk," she said. "Those who continue to do so risk imprisonment."

Mr Shapps has told committee members at the House of Commons on Wednesday he believes the injunction granted against the protesters will bring an end to the demonstrations.

Footage taken at the scene on Tuesday by LBC showed the protesters walking on to the motorway and sitting down on the ground in front of moving traffic.

Mr Shapps said: "It barely goes without saying, it's irresponsible, dangerous and completely counterproductive. It's unacceptable and I hope the injunction will bring it to a close.

"Earlier in the process there was a somewhat different approach being taken. Yesterday the police were on the scene much more quickly. The injunction will greatly strengthen their hand."

He added: "We will review the powers because clearly it's unacceptable for people to be able to walk on to not just a major highway but a motorway, stop traffic, be released the next day and do the same thing again. An injunction may just be an interim way of doing that."

The M25 climate protests have also prompted anger from a police chief for putting officers in danger after they shut down the motorway five times in just over a week, as the police back the injunction.

Protestors from Insulate Britain block the M25 motorway near Cobham in Surrey on September 21 - Guy Smallman/Getty Images
Protestors from Insulate Britain block the M25 motorway near Cobham in Surrey on September 21 - Guy Smallman/Getty Images
Police remove activists from the motorway as protestors from Insulate Britain block the M25 motorway - Guy Smallman/Getty Images
Police remove activists from the motorway as protestors from Insulate Britain block the M25 motorway - Guy Smallman/Getty Images

The Assistant Chief Constable from Humberside Police has said that police officers "should not have to patrol the M25 waiting for protesters to turn up".

Chris Noble, 43, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The people most likely to come to harm at the moment are probably police officers for having to run across motorways, try and remove protesters as well as ironically keep them safe from themselves."

One of the activists, Zoe Cohen, told the Today programme on Wednesday that "safety has been foremost in our minds" and that the protesters involved "understand the risks they are taking".

She said: "The people taking part in these actions understand that the risks they are taking are because we have tried everything else to make the Government protect us from the predicted impacts of climate chaos."

Ms Cohen added that the "last thing" they want is for someone to come to serious harm.

Campaign 'goes on' despite prison threat

In response to the injunction against their protests, Insulate Britain said in a statement: "We understand that an injunction was granted against Insulate Britain in the High Court last night.

"We do not know the terms of the injunction and right now our campaign goes on.

"We appreciate that Priti Patel is in a difficult position. Like her, our biggest concern is law and order and our national security. In focusing on us, Priti Patel is missing the bigger picture.

"Currently 8,500 people a year die unnecessarily in the UK because of their frozen homes and climate collapse presents an incalculable threat to our way of life.

"A more measured way in which she could discharge her ministerial responsibility would be to ask the Prime Minister to start the process of insulating Britain's leaky homes.

"As soon as the Government makes a meaningful statement that we can trust, we will leave the motorway."

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