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Police chiefs meet with the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to discuss criminal activism

01 Dec 2022

Police chiefs have welcomed today’s constructive meeting with the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to discuss the response to criminal activism involved in some protest movements.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Public Order and Public Safety, Chief Constable BJ Harrington, said:

“Today’s meeting was constructive and shows a joint commitment to tackling criminal activism while respecting lawful protest.

“Police operate within a strict legal and human rights framework in relation to policing protest with a responsibility to appropriately balance the rights of the public who are going about their daily business lawfully and the rights of those protesting.

“There is a difference between protest and criminal activism. We are not anti-protest, but we are anti-crime. Police are committed to responding quickly and effectively to activists who deliberately disrupt people’s lives through dangerous, reckless, and criminal acts.

“Over the past year we have made over a thousand arrests, significantly boosted our specialist officer numbers to deal with sophisticated lock-on methods and responded faster to criminal acts thanks to improved intelligence and proactivity.

“We are fully prepared to deal with further disruption planned ahead of Christmas – acting quickly to minimise disruption for law-abiding members of the public.”

The response to criminal activists involved in protests could be quicker and more effective with:

  • A clearer legal definition of serious disruption, which will enable officers to take action and make arrests more effectively.
  • Speeding up criminal justice processes, which will act as a greater deterrent for criminal actions.
  • Commissioning a cross agency and departmental criminal justice working group to look at these issues as a whole system including more preparation, vigilance and action by businesses.

Policing has improved its response to the criminal tactics of activists over the past year, including increasing the number of specialist removal officers by 63 per cent, with over 500 officers now trained in debonding, over 400 specialists in removal, and over 250 for “at height” removal across England and Wales. We are also carrying out proactive intelligence-led operations to track the continual change and development of tactics and targets.

The College of Policing has directly trained 230 gold public order commanders, while more than 21,000 officers were trained in their force on public order under a licence issued by the standards body. 

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, CEO at the College of Policing, said: “Our priority is keeping the public safe and ensuring people can go about their daily lives. We want to ensure there is a nationally consistent approach and we have already made significant changes to training so that officers can remove those who attach themselves to buildings or objects, making sure our response is swift, balanced and pragmatic.”

During the M25 gantry activities:

  • We made 65 arrests, 61 charged, 29 remanded to prison.
  • Activists were arrested before, on the way to, and whilst trying to climb gantries due to proactive and pre-deployed officers and equipment.
  • The shortest road closure was 13 minutes and the longest two hours.

Next week, public order officers from across England and Wales will attend a national event called by the College of Policing to share knowledge and best practice for policing.

It will include public order commanders, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and the National Police Coordination Centre, which is responsible for coordinating the deployment of officers from across the UK to support forces during large scale events or operations.