Priti Patel to enable police to stop disruptive protesters going to demos

Protesters disrupting motorways will be prevented from travelling around the country under new powers to be handed to the police, Priti Patel will announce on Tuesday.

In a move that will provoke anger from civil liberties groups, the home secretary will say she will introduce criminal disruption prevention orders to halt the movement of “prolific offenders”.

The orders will give the courts the power to prevent individuals with a history of disruption or where there is intelligence suggesting they are likely to commit a criminal offence from attending particular protests, Conservative sources said.

In a speech to the Tory party conference, she will also outline a new offence of disrupting critical national infrastructure. This will stop protesters from targeting power stations, media organisations or airports, she will say.

The Tories are proposing to make the change through the police, crime, courts and sentencing bill, which will grant the police additional powers. They hope it will become law by May.

Individuals who breach the travel bans will be in contempt of court, which carries a maximum sentence of two years or an unlimited fine, Tory sources added.

They will be criminal rather than civil orders, giving the police the ability to arrest offenders immediately rather than relying on National Highways to issue individuals with legal papers, a process that can take weeks.

Priti Patel to enable police to stop disruptive protesters going to demos

The home secretary will say she will amend new legislation to bring in other powers to seize equipment that protesters could use to lock or glue themselves on to fixed objects.

In recent weeks, the home secretary has applied for court injunctions to stop Insulate Britain campaigners from bringing motorways to a standstill. The current fines for blocking a highway are up to £1,000.

On Monday, the climate activist group said 54 supporters had blocked Hanger Lane in north-west London, the Blackwall tunnel in south-east London and Wandsworth Bridge in south-west London, as they began a fourth week of their campaign for government action on home insulation.

Patel will say: “Today I can announce I will increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway; criminalise interference with key infrastructures such as roads, railways and our free press; and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities.”

In a further announcement, the justice secretary, Dominic Raab, will say that 12,000 former offenders will be fitted with “sobriety tags”, which can check if they are breaching court-ordered drinking bans.

In the first planned widespread use of alcohol monitors on prison leavers, the deputy prime minister will say they will be used over the next four years on those known to have committed a crime while under the influence.

The plan is part of a series of measures to bolster the criminal justice system, which will be outlined at party conference by Raab and Patel.

Until now, alcohol monitoring tags have been ordered for more than 1,500 offenders serving community sentences since they were introduced in October last year.

Raab will say that almost 26,000 extra offenders will be tagged over the next three years under a £180m plan to expand the use of electronic monitoring to cut crime.

Raab will also announce that 10,000 of those will be thieves and burglars fitted with GPS tags as they come out of prison.

A National Audit Office report in 2017 concluded there was little evidence of any demand for GPS tagging, or that it was effective, or that it offered value for money.

Ministry of Justice insiders insist that the technology has since improved and that there is further evidence that it can be used to curb reoffending.

Raab will say:“This major increase in hi-tech GPS tagging will see us leading the world in using technology to fight crime and keep victims safe. From tackling alcohol-fuelled violence and burglary to protecting domestic abuse victims, we are developing tags to make our streets and communities safer.”

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