Braverman: Militant Protesters to Face Full Legal Armoury of Police

Braverman: Militant Protesters to Face Full Legal Armoury of Police
Britain's Home Secretary Suella Braverman leaves 10 Downing Street following a meeting of Cabinet, in London, on June 13, 2023. (Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)
Patricia Devlin

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said police now have the “full armoury of legal tools” to deal with “militant” protesters after peers voted through controversial anti-protest regulations.

Speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, the home secretary said she now expected a “swifter” police response to deal with those bringing “misery and chaos to the law abiding majority.”

“I am incredibly frustrated when I see scenes of militant activists, selfish protesters disrupt people from getting to work, getting to school, getting to hospital appointments, and we cannot see that,” she said on Wednesday.

“I think that, yes, we want to see a more robust and swifter response from the police and I think there is room for improvement personally, going forward.”

Braverman was speaking hours after the House of Lords voted through a new law giving officers more powers to intervene in slow-walk protests, tunnelling, or road blockades.

The tactics have been used by protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, and Insulate Britain.

The new regulations were voted through despite a block attempt by an opposition peer.

It follows last month’s passage of the Public Order Act, which also gives police more powers to clamp down on protests judged to be disruptive.

Speaking to committee MPs, Braverman went on to praise and back the Metropolitan Police over its handling of the coronation.

It followed criticism of the force over the arrest of six anti-monarchy protesters and three charity volunteers who were all later released without charge.

Millions of Pounds to Police Protests

“I think the police have done a very difficult job,” she told the committee.

“If you look at the coronation, for example, I think policing of that event, of that scale, of that significance was a success for the police.

“I think that it went off unimpeded, and people were able to enjoy that historic event and that’s thanks to incredible hard work and initiative deployed by the police.”

Asked by Tory colleague Lee Anderson if she intended to “come down heavy” on chief constables or commissioners who did not use their extended protest powers, Braverman said the police are “operationally independent” from the Home Office.

“That’s a foundation of our arrangement and our constitution so any decision that they make about arresting a particular person, intervening in a matter, is for them alone and I have to respect that,” she said.

Braverman said Just Stop Oil protests had cost “millions of pounds” in policing costs.

“I think it was just in the last six weeks alone, there’s been 156 or thereabout events or protester incidents,” she said.

“Thirteen thousand police officer shifts have been used on policing those protests.

“There have been hundreds of arrests and it’s cost millions of pounds so the police are trying hard.

“I believe that they’ve come to us and asked for greater clarity in the law so that they understand where the threshold sits.”

Braverman said she believes the government has now provided that clarity and is “empowered to respond robustly.”

Handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Lord Murray of Blidworth speaking in the House of Lords, London, during the debate on the Government's Illegal Migration Bill on May 10, 2023. (House of Lords 2023/Roger Harris)
Handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Lord Murray of Blidworth speaking in the House of Lords, London, during the debate on the Government's Illegal Migration Bill on May 10, 2023. (House of Lords 2023/Roger Harris)

Lords Back Legislation

Tuesday’s voting through of the controversial regulations was branded a “constitutional outrage” in Parliament.

The condemnation came after peers backed by 177 votes to 141, majority 36, a so-called regret motion proposed by Labour criticising the process and urging the withdrawal of the provisions, already approved by the Commons.

A rare fatal motion brought by the Green Party, aimed at killing the regulations off completely, was defeated by 154 to 68, majority 86.

In response to demonstrations by groups such as Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion, and Insulate Britain, the government measures will lower the threshold for what is considered “serious disruption” to community life from “significant” and “prolonged” to “more than minor.”

They will also allow police officers to take into account “any relevant cumulative disruption” of repeated protests.

The secondary legislation is contentious because the government had previously tried to introduce the same changes when the Public Order Bill went through Parliament, but they were rejected by the unelected Lords at the time by 254 votes to 240.

This effectively blocked the measures because the amendment was only introduced when the bill reached the upper chamber and could not return to the Commons during so-called ping-pong as it was not in the original legislation passed by MPs.

The step to restore the provisions by statutory instrument, which face less scrutiny than primary legislation and cannot be changed, has led to accusations the government is flouting parliamentary democracy.

Labour frontbencher Lord Coaker said, “It is an absolute fundamental constitutional outrage what has actually taken place.”

Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said, “This is an authoritarian law that hands power to decide what is a good protest or a bad protest over to the police and the Home Office ... and it’s being enacted in an authoritarian manner by ministerial decree.”

Human rights group Liberty has taken the first step towards a High Court challenge over the legislation.

Liberty lawyer Katy Watts said: “The home secretary has sidelined Parliament to sneak in new legislation via the back door, despite not having the powers to do so.

“This has been done deliberately in a way which enables the government to circumvent Parliament—who voted these same proposals down just a few months ago—and is a flagrant breach of the separation of powers that exist in our constitution.”

PA Media contributed to this report.
Patricia is an award winning journalist based in Ireland. She specializes in investigations and giving victims of crime, abuse, and corruption a voice.
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