Priti Patel urges police to use new powers to counter road-block activism
At least 13 protesters were arrested on Monday (4) for driving too slowly when blocking roads British home secretary Priti Patel (Photo by Toby Melville – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
BRITISH home secretary Priti Patel has urged police to use new powers to shut down protests after fuel price campaigners held up highways around the country.
According to reports, at least 13 protesters were arrested on Monday (4) for driving too slowly when blocking roads.
Protesters called for fuel duty to be slashed to slow the soaring cost of filling up a car.
Most of the arrests took place on the M4. Drivers also protested on the M54, M62, A38 and several other roads, reports said.
New laws in the UK, which came into effect on 28 June, give police increased powers to deal with protests deemed to be causing serious disruption.
The laws were introduced in response to Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain environmental protests which blocked roads en masse. The government also increased penalties for protesters.
The Wilful obstruction of the highway used to be punishable by a maximum fine of £50, it now carries up to a six-month prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine.
“Through our Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, we have given the police a wealth of powers to deal with disruptive and damaging protests, including imprisonment and unlimited fines for those blocking a highway – actions which inflict further pain on those affected by rising prices,” the Home Office source said.
“The Home Secretary would encourage and support the police to make use of all the powers available to them. Forces need to move people on. These protests are blocking people from getting to work and from carrying out other vital journeys – this is not about whether you believe in the cause or not.”
The protests, which started at around 7 am, were understood to have been organised via social media under the banner Fuel Price Stand Against Tax.
The average price of petrol reached a new high of 191.5p per litre on Sunday (3), while the average price of diesel was 199.0p per litre.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said it was time for the government to “take action” and cut fuel duty again or reduce VAT to help “hard-pressed drivers and businesses”.
Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that he would carefully consider calls for a ‘more substantial’ fuel duty decrease after the 5p-per-litre reduction implemented in March failed to halt price rises.