Rishi Sunak backs tougher police powers to shut down protests before they get disruptive

Police could be allowed to intervene before protests become highly disruptive, under new measures set to be considered in parliament, Rishi Sunak’s government has

confirmed. An amendment to the Public Order Bill, to be introduced on Monday, will aim to give police greater clarity about when they can intervene to stop demonstrators

blocking roads or slow marching. The proposals – aimed at curbing the tactics used by activists groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion – come after police

chiefs claimed there is some uncertainty over what can be currently classed as “serious disruption” under existing law. According to No 10, under the proposed changes,

police would not need to wait for disruption to take place and could shut demonstrations down before they escalate. Human rights group Liberty said the plan was an attack on

the right to protest, while Labour said the changes were unnecessary and accused the Sunak government of trying to “grab the headlines”. Liberty director Martha Spurrier

said: “Allowing the police to shut down protests before any disruption has taken place simply on the off-chance that it might sets a dangerous precedent, not to mention making the

job of officers policing protests much more complex.” No 10 said police, as part of the mooted changes, would not need to treat a series of protests by the same group as

standalone incidents, but would be able to consider their total impact. Officers would be able to take into consideration long-running campaigns designed to cause repeat

disruption over a period of days or weeks.