Sunak pledges further powers to crack down on protesters causing ‘misery’

Police could be given further powers to stop protesters disrupting people’s lives under plans being drawn up under Rishi Sunak.

The Prime Minister said the proposals would be set out in the coming weeks to prevent “a small minority” disrupting the lives of the “hard-working majority”.

Ministers and officials have been grappling with the changing tactics used by groups such as Just Stop Oil, including slowing traffic to a crawling pace by carrying out walking protests through cities including London.

Rishi Sunak visit to Leeds
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised new powers to halt disruption caused by protests (Oli Scarff/PA)

Parliament has already passed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and is currently considering the Public Order Bill, which were both intended to restrict disruptive protests.

But Mr Sunak indicated that yet more powers would be required, writing on the ConservativeHome website that disruptive protests were “not right and we’re going to put a stop to it”.

He said: “Peaceful protest is a fine British, democratic tradition. But that must be balanced with the rights of everyone else to go about their lives freely.

“We have been looking at how we can strengthen our laws to provide the police with the clarity they need to stop serious disruption and will come forward with those plans in the coming weeks.

“We cannot and will not have protests conducted by a small minority disrupting the lives of the hard working majority, preventing a mother taking their kids to school or cancer patients attending their hospital appointments. It’s not right and we’re going to put a stop to it.”

Downing Street suggested there could be additional powers and greater clarity for police.

“We want the police to have the requisite powers and that includes ensuring that when people are significantly disrupting the public’s everyday lives, the police can act, ” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Just Stop Oil protest
Police officers deal with activists from Just Stop Oil outside Harrods last October (Ian West/PA)

“There is additional legislation moving through the House already that provides further power, but we have seen new tactics emerge, evolve – in part because of the tougher powers we’ve introduced.

“So it’s important we continually look at making sure the police have any powers, and certainly any clarity they need, to act.”

He added: “We’ve seen protests move to slow walking protests. Obviously the Government fully respects people’s right to protest, to demonstrate, and we will always protect that.

“But equally there needs to be a balance struck on protests that are deliberately designed to inflict misery on the public so they can’t go about their daily lives.”

Asked if there could be a ban on slow-walking protests, of the kind which have been staged on Whitehall outside the gates to Downing Street, the spokesman said: “I’m not going to get into what further action we may or may not take in this area. It is something we want to keep looking at to make sure police have the right powers.”