United Kingdom

Police's appeasement of M25 mob is an embarrassment, PHILIP FLOWER 

To see it once is shocking. A second time is staggering. But for the M25 — Britain’s busiest road — to be brought to a standstill five out of the past eight days beggars belief.

Put simply, the continuing scenes of motorway mayhem, caused by a small group of self-indulgent environmental protesters, are an embarrassment to British policing.

Instead of upholding the law and protecting the public by ensuring that society can continue to function, some senior officers appear to have repeatedly allowed these irresponsible demonstrators to bring parts of our most important road network to a halt.

Whatever your opinion on the Insulate Britain protesters’ beliefs, their reckless methods of running headfirst into motorway traffic are irrefutably both illegal and irresponsible.

Instead of upholding the law and protecting the public by ensuring that society can continue to function, some senior officers appear to have repeatedly allowed these irresponsible demonstrators to bring parts of our most important road network to a halt

Tailbacks

Resolute, swift action by police at the start of these protests could have nipped this nonsense in the bud. But instead a softly-softly approach has allowed things to escalate.

As a result, not only has major damage been inflicted on the economy at a time when supply lines are already under threat, but lives have also been put at risk — both in terms of the immediate danger of causing road collisions, and through leaving ambulances and other essential services caught up in tailbacks.

Last Wednesday, activists were blamed for a crash involving four vehicles that led to a woman in her 50s being airlifted to hospital with serious injuries (though police say it is ‘too early’ to know if the protest caused the collision).

And only this week, a mother was reportedly left partially paralysed after her trip to hospital was delayed by six hours thanks to protests, as she suffered a suspected stroke.

No less an authority than the Supreme Court has stated that protests must be proportionate. That is manifestly not the case with Insulate Britain’s antics on the M25, where any sense of proportion has been lost

Yet against these individual tragedies, the police’s mentality of appeasement was captured when an extraordinary piece of footage showed Inspector Vicki Richards telling protesters who were sprawled across the motorway last week: ‘If you are in any discomfort or need anything, just let me know and we’ll try and sort you out in a nice way.’

As a former Chief Superintendent in the Met, I was utterly dismayed to see fellow officers kow-towing to people committing serious repeated criminal offences. And I know that many present and past officers feel exactly the same way.

Frankly, the police seem to have lost the plot. It is not the job of constabularies to make offenders feel comfortable — effectively signalling support for a political cause.

As Sir Robert Peel, the 19th-century statesman who created the Met, put it, police should retain their authority ‘not by pandering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the law’.

Let me be clear: I am not arguing against the right to protest. Such a freedom is a cornerstone of British democracy, distinguishing our open society from closed, oppressive states.

But the right to protest has to be balanced by a recognition that other people have to go about their business.

No less an authority than the Supreme Court has stated that protests must be proportionate.

That is manifestly not the case with Insulate Britain’s antics on the M25, where any sense of proportion has been lost.

Any descent into paralysing anarchy, even if dressed up in the language of eco-activism, cannot be accepted in a civilised society.

My own suspicion is that police have become so anxious to abide by the 1998 Human Rights Act, which enshrines the right to protest, they’ve forgotten to enforce two other vital laws: the ones that make it a criminal offence to obstruct a public highway and to walk along the motorway.

What makes it so frustrating is that it would have been so straightforward to arrest any protestors immediately for such infringements.

At any of the targeted junctions on the M25, a few vanloads of PSU (Police Support Unit) officers, who have undergone tactical training, could have quickly removed the protesters.

If the protestors tried to superglue themselves to each other or the Tarmac, then police have access to special liquids that swiftly dissolve the glue.

What’s more, it should be obvious to any police officer that someone arrested for such an offence should have stringent bail conditions imposed which would lead to custody if they did it again.

It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that they have gone soft. And I am certain if the M25 crew had been protesting against vaccines or been a far-Right mob, then the police’s attitude would have been very different

Vital

But, instead, we have witnessed the farce of the same small fanatical group of Insulate Britain protesters locked in a cycle of arrest, then release, then re-offending over the past fortnight.

Apart from the requirements of the law, police also have a duty to consider other public needs, like any risks to safety from severe traffic jams.

As a former Assistant Director of Operations for the London Ambulance Service, I am particularly thinking of threats to vital medical supplies and transporting vulnerable patients, as well as food supplies at a time when our supermarkets are already stretched thin.

But this duty of care runs more widely. The M25 is a truly essential British road, connecting to no fewer than 10 other motorways and serving millions of people every year. Yet somehow a selfish eco-brigade is able to bring it to a halt while the police stand by apparently helpless.

It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that they have gone soft. And I am certain if the M25 crew had been protesting against vaccines or been a far-Right mob, then the police’s attitude would have been very different.

Prosecution

The irony is that this ugly mess has undoubtedly inflicted huge environmental damage. It is the height of hypocrisy to demand cuts to Britain’s carbon output by deliberately causing congestion that leaves idling cars and lorries to pump out vast clouds of pollution.

Not that they care. Many of these protesters come from affluent, middle-class backgrounds and seem more concerned with the self-righteous desire to signal their ‘virtue’ than to achieve real change. That is why they are so indifferent to the needs of others.

Faith in the criminal justice system is already low, not least because the authorities seem so poor at law enforcement

But the longer these protests continue almost unchecked, the more the public’s support for the police collapses.

Faith in the criminal justice system is already low, not least because the authorities seem so poor at law enforcement.

Just 8 per cent of all crimes now result in prosecution through the courts, even for serious offences like burglary and domestic violence.

Yet between 2014 and 2019 a staggering 120,000 ‘non-crime hate incidents’ were recorded by police forces in England and Wales.

It seems our civic order has lost its legal and moral compass. And this M25 madness is just the latest chapter in this sorry decline.

Football news:

Tuchel about the League Cup: Every tournament is important, we do not prioritize. Chelsea always plays to win
Miranchuk looks like a foreign body. It would be better to let him go back to Russia. Italian journalist about Atalanta midfielder
Barcelona's priority is Klopp's appointment. His contract with Liverpool is until 2024
Milan is ready to more than double Teo's salary to 3.5 Million euros a year
Al-Sadd Xavi has not lost 34 matches in the Qatar League - this is a club record. The league record is 41 games
Nagelsmann about Hernandez: He is in a good mood, there is no feeling that he is worried about prison
Tuchel on the victory over Southampton: A tense match. I liked Chelsea's energy