From Climate Scepticism
By MARK HODGSON
In London yet again the eco-pests have been out and about, making lives hell for ordinary people trying to go about their business. For most people one set of eco-protestors are just as much of a nuisance as any other, but for the record, this time it was Just Stop Oil who were at it. Once more they were standing on the highway, making it impossible for motorists to pass. The police turned up, but so far as can be seen, they did nothing.
That is, until a frustrated van driver, trying to get to work, snatched away their plastic oil-based banner and swore at them. The moment was caught on film here, and instantly two policemen descended on him and started remonstrating with him, physically (though admittedly in a gentle way) moving him away from the protestors. Seconds later a third policeman joined in. Meanwhile the traffic chaos continued and the protestors seemingly remained in situ with impunity.
It should be noted that section 137(1) of the Highways Act 1980 provides that “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine or both.” Of course, the potential loophole is the plea that the “climate crisis” provides the protestors with a lawful excuse.
One might have thought that in these cases the claim of the protestors would be a weak one, but seemingly not. In the case of DPP -v- Ziegler the Supreme Court carried out a comprehensive review of the relevant case law, including decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights, such as Primov -v- Russia, and concluded:
It is clear from those authorities that intentional action by protesters to disrupt by obstructing others enjoys the guarantees of articles 10 and 11, but both disruption and whether it is intentional are relevant factors in relation to an evaluation of proportionality. Accordingly, intentional action even with an effect that is more than de minimis does not automatically lead to the conclusion that any interference with the protesters’ articles 10 and 11 rights is proportionate. Rather, there must be an assessment of the facts in each individual case to determine whether the interference with article 10 or article 11 rights was “necessary in a democratic society”.
Kuznetzov -v- Russia was also cited with approval, including this paragraph:
Finally, as a general principle, the court reiterates that any demonstration in a public place inevitably causes a certain level of disruption to ordinary life, including disruption of traffic, and that it is important for the public authorities to show a certain degree of tolerance towards peaceful gatherings if the freedom of assembly guaranteed by article 11 of the Convention is not to be deprived of all substance.
Thus it can be seen that – probably contrary to the beliefs and wishes of many people – the law gives considerable latitude to the protestors, and consequently the police have to take that into account when dealing with them. Many people wonder why the police delay for rather a long time before taking action against protestors obstructing the highway. The simple answer is that the case law provides that the length of time the obstruction takes is a relevant factor in deciding whether or not it is lawful. Pity, then, the police, who have to strike a balance between allowing lawful protests (whatever those affected by the protests might think of them) and keeping the traffic flowing, while preventing the situation from potentially spinning out of control and turning violent. Having analysed the law on the subject, my sympathies are with both the police and ordinary citizens whose lives are being made hell by the eco-protestors. I have no sympathy with protestors who must know that their demands to “just stop oil” can’t be met within their required timescales, and who also show contempt both for the democratic process and for their fellow citizens.
Given the nature of recent events in London, it is therefore more than a little galling to read about what’s going on at the other end of the country – in Shetland, where the Viking Energy project is now causing chaos on the roads while the huge turbine parts are delivered. With police assistance, naturally. We learn from an article in the Shetland Times that “aggressive” police are scaring people while accompanying the Viking Energy convoys:
Police officers travelling with the convoys to the Viking windfarm site are scaring people by ordering them off the road aggressively, a meeting heard on Tuesday night.
Viking Community Liaison Group chairman Andrew Archer said he was “surprised” to hear from one person who asked if the police could be less aggressive when dealing with the public.
The person said they had been left so “gluffed” they almost had an accident.
Another person had actually had an accident, the person alleged, after being “frightened by the police escort”.
Mr Archer said he had spoken to a few people who felt similarly – and that the police were acting like “something out of The Sweeney“.
“They’re being quite aggressive in pushing people off the road,” he said.
Viking project manager Aaron Priest said it was not for them to tell the police how to do their job.
The length and breadth of the country, from London and the M25 in the south to Shetland in the north, it seems that “greens” will always take priority, whether in the form of eco-protestors or massive renewable energy companies. Apparently Joe Public should get used to the idea that the roads aren’t for the likes of him (or her). My only consolation is that the contempt of all those in authority and all those associated with the net zero project, for ordinary people, must lead to a backlash. Soon. Please.
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