Met police ‘misinterpreting the law’ over Just Stop Oil’s new tactic

Just Stop Oil protesters slow walk through Barbican

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The Metropolitan Police are “misinterpreting the law” when it comes to Just Stop Oil protesters and allowing them to cause chaos in the city, a former detective has claimed. Speaking to GB News, former Scotland Yard detective and undercover cop Peter Bleksley said the police have “got themselves in a tangle” for no reason by failing to categorise the scale of road blocking protests as “significant”, adding that the activists should be arrested for “willfully obstructing” the free passage of traffic. His comments come as home secretary Suella Braverman is set to hold a meeting with police leaders to crack down on the protests. 

Asked if the police were being “inadequate” on the ground, Mr Bleksley said: “Oh, most definitely. 

“We have seen this different tactic this week with Just Stop Oil, where they are walking slowly on the road, thereby obstructing the free passage of traffic, but they are claiming that because they are not static, they cannot be arrested. 

“But it is my strong contention that the police are misinterpreting the law, thereby not applying it properly, and they should be. 

“They should be setting legal precedence, getting courageous lawyers, engaging with the Crown Prosecution Service and saying ‘This is how we are interpreting this short passage and this is why we are arresting people, and charging them’.”

The former detective then read out a caveat from the Highways Act of 1980, which read as follows: “If a person without a lawful authority or excuse, in any way, wilfully obstructs the free passage of traffic along a highway.”  

Mr Bleksley added: “So, that does not for me say that traffic has to be stopped in its entirety. It is about free passage. And they are wilfully obstructing the free passage. 

“We are all familiar with the policing term a ‘rolling roadblock’ that they bring in when there has been, say, an accident and they need to move the traffic very slowly. 

“The key word there is ‘block’. The protesters are blocking the streets. They are willfully obstructing it. 

“The whole buzzword of ‘significant’ that the police have got themselves in such a tangle over, well my legal argument would be they are doing this every day. That, in itself, is significant.” 

The home secretary and policing minister will meet with police leaders on Thursday to discuss tackling “guerrilla tactics” used by protest groups such as Just Stop Oil, according to No 10. 

Suella Braverman and Chris Philp will host the roundtable in Downing Street because “more must be done” to stop disruptive demonstrations, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“We do want to discuss with police leaders if they require more powers or more guidance about how to further address some of these guerrilla tactics we’ve seen. Obviously there has been some new tactics attempted in recent days and we’re very conscious that the public wants us to deal with this.

“And so it’s right that we speak to those in charge of our police forces about how they plan to address (this).”

The official added: “These protests are disrupting people’s daily lives, they’re hindering the work of the emergency services and more must be done to put a stop to them.”

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Just Stop Oil returned to the streets on Monday, making use of a new tactic of performing slow marches in a bid to avoid arrest. A large group of the activists, flanked by police, walked through Shepherd’s Bush and the Strand at the start of the week. 

The move away from glueing themselves to the road is an attempt to attract new members with methods that are “non injunction breaking” and that “aim to be non-arrestable”.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the shift represents a necessary softening of their protests because “a large number of their leaders have been remanded in custody”. 

Sir Mark told the London Assembly: “Frankly what I’ve seen is that Just Stop Oil have got much less assertive in their recent protests, frankly as a consequence of a large number of their leaders being remanded in custody as a result of our operations.”

“I’m absolutely determined that anything that goes beyond lawful reasonable protest by creating serious disruption to London, by creating damage to property, will be dealt with robustly,” he added.

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