Rishi Sunak Defends Controversial Police Powers Used To Arrest Protesters At Coronation

A protester holds a placard which states 'This country is ours' during the demonstration.
A protester holds a placard which states 'This country is ours' during the demonstration.

A protester holds a placard which states 'This country is ours' during the demonstration.

Rishi Sunak has defended the controversial new police powers used to arrest protesters at King Charles’ coronation.

The prime minister insisted that the police need the powers to tackle “serious disruption”.

He made the comments amid a backlash over the arrests of six protesters from anti-monarchy group Republic.

Officers arrested the group using new powers under the new Public Order Act because they believed items found alongside placards could have been used as “lock-on devices” to cause disruption.

Scotland Yard has since expressed “regret” over the six arrests and the CEO of Republic, Graham Smith, has claimed Met Police officers apologised to him personally at his home in Reading on Monday evening.

Former Tory cabinet minister David Davis has also expressed concerns about the legislation, describing it as “very woolly”.

But Sunak told broadcasters everything went off “so smoothly and was so successful”.

He added: “With regard to protest, of course people have the right to protest freely but peacefully, but it is also right that people have the ability to go about their day-to-day lives without facing serious disruption.

“What the government has done is give the police the powers that they need to tackle instances of serious disruption to people’s lives.

“I think that is the right thing to do and the police will make decisions on when they use those powers.”

Asked if anything about the Republic arrests made him feel uncomfortable, he insisted police are “rightly, operationally independent of government”.

“They make the decisions on the ground in the way they see fit,” Sunak added.

“It wouldn’t be right for me to interfere with their operational decisions but it is right for the government to give the police the powers to tackle serious disruption.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman also defended the powers, telling reporters: “We do still stand by these powers which we think are in line with what the public want and what we believe are appropriate.

“I think the public has been alarmed by the chaos caused by highly disruptive protesters over the last few years and the legislation was brought in to balance the fundamental rights of protesters with the rights of others to go about their business without fear of serious disruption to their daily lives.”

The Met said all six had their bail cancelled and no further action will be taken.

They added: “We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route.”