Police are unable to step in and remove protestors from blocking roads as they do not meet the “critical legal threshold” of causing “serious disruption”, according to the Met Commissioner.
Just Stop Oil protesters have blocked roads across London over the past 11 days as they call for an end to fossil fuel reliance in the UK.
While more than 300 arrests have been made since the protests began, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley told a meeting of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee on Wednesday that he is “frustrated” his officers can’t do more to stop roads being blocked.
Sir Mark told Assembly Members that the Met works with TfL, local councils and emergency services to determine whether the protests could be deemed to be causing “serious disruption”.
Despite reports that fire engines have been blocked by protesters sitting in the road, Sir Mark said that the partners, including emergency services, “have been of the view that it doesn’t cause serious disruption”.
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He said: “The law is clear that blocking a road in itself isn’t automatically serious disruption. And, whilst it’s committing some offence in terms of obstruction of the highway, those aren’t prosecutable if it’s a lawful protest as long as it doesn’t exceed legal bounds.
“The fact I was putting 200 officers a day into policing this, I don’t welcome this, it’s not good for London’s communities, frankly. But I have to work within the legal framework. I would love to be able to close these down more quickly and spend less policing resources than at the moment.
“As soon as the partners who have the expertise to assess the impact on the road network and the emergency services, as soon as they say this is heading towards crossing the line, we’ll be in there straight away. But until that point, I don’t have a legal power to do that.”
Just Stop Oil protesters returned to London’s streets on Wednesday morning, blocking a road near to Downing Street.
The group has said the Government “has the power to end this today by agreeing to stop new oil and gas licences and consents”.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Liz Truss called the protests “unacceptable” and said the Government is preparing to give police new powers to “ensure they can go even further in preventing these individuals from disrupting people’s lives”.
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