Distressed Patriotic Flag Unisex T-Shirt - Celebrate Comfort and Country $11.29 USD Get it here>>
Some of the cases linked to disruption of public order, such as the highway obstruction by groups like Just Stop Oil, will not be reviewed by courts until 2025, according to the Metropolitan Police.
The Met’s Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist told LBC on Monday that over 750 people were arrested before Christmas for offences including disrupting significant parts of the critical roads infrastructure. This includes Just Stop Oil activists, who would stage protests that shut down parts of Britain’s busiest motorway, the M25.
Twist said that these cases are now “working their way through the courts and the cost of that is enormous.”
According to criminal court backlog figures for April this year, there are more than 58,000 outstanding cases in the Crown Court. The backlog “will not go away anytime soon,” said the Vice President of the Law Society Lubna Shuja.
Twist, who oversees the police response to demonstrations such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, said that since the police started using powers under the Public Order Act 1986, 116 people had been arrested.
Under the act, which was recently amended by legislators, “serious disruption” has been defined as “prevention of, or a hindrance that is more than minor to, the carrying out of day-to-day activities (including in particular the making of a journey).”
This is in contrast to the previous definition, which described “serious disruption” as a “significant delay” to the supply of a time-sensitive product to consumers, or “prolonged disruption” to access to essential services.
Twist detailed the cost of dealing with 241 slow marches and imposing conditions 192 times.
“So far, just in this phase, 16,500 officer shifts have been used to deal with Just Stop Oil. And if you want to put a monetary value on it, it’s about £5.5 million.
“But the point is, that’s about 150 officers a day during the phase and from my point of view as someone that cares deeply about crime in London, what I could do with 150 officers, preventing robberies or investigating crime or supporting victims, is really significant,” Twist said.
The police can focus more on crime and supporting victims, given that Just Stop Oil protesters have changed their tactics and now “cause less disruption to Londoners,” added the assistant commissioner.
On Monday, 59 Just Stop Oil protesters took to the streets of London in a slow march to demand the halt of all licences for new oil, gas, and coal projects. The marches were issued with Section 12 notices and were off the road within 90 minutes.
The cumulative effect of allocating police to deal with these marches is significant, Twist said.
“And of course these officers aren’t made up from thin air. They are officers that would be working elsewhere were they not dealing with Just Stop Oil this morning, you know,” Twist said.
Police officers who arrive at a scene where a disruptive march is taking place take measures to clear the road and move protesters to the pavement.
“In a democracy, we understand that protests can be disruptive. But here, what you’ve seen is a small number of people disrupting a very large number of members of the public in London. So actually, what is a marginal constraint in terms of telling them to protest on the pavement actually helps the public enormously. So we think we’re striking the right balance,” Twist said.
Just Stop Oil has called on the police to “realise that their children are in the same danger as the young people they are being told to arrest” and vowed to continue with their campaign of civil resistance until the government halts new fossil fuel projects in the UK.