Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Sweeping measures to curb protests proposed by adviser on political violence

Measures including making organisers pay towards policing and restrictions on groups that break the law have been proposed by Lord Walney (Aaron Chown/PA)
Measures including making organisers pay towards policing and restrictions on groups that break the law have been proposed by Lord Walney (Aaron Chown/PA)

Sweeping measures to crack down on protests, including making organisers pay towards policing and a review of undercover surveillance of activist groups, have been proposed by the Government’s adviser on political violence.

Lord Walney recommends a series of severe changes to “protect our democratic values from intimidation”, such as a blanket ban on face coverings at protests and making it easier for businesses or members of the public to claim damages from activist groups that cause disruption.

He also wants the Government to consider making protest buffer zones around MPs’ constituency offices and local council chambers, in the same way that some abortion clinics will be protected.

The peer backs measures to restrict the ability of some groups to organise and fundraise if they are considered to have a policy of using criminal offences that would lead to a prison term, for example destroying property or causing serious disruption or injury.

Asked about the report, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Extremism has no place in our society. Threatening or intimidating behaviour that disrupts the lives of ordinary hardworking people isn’t acceptable.”

In his 292-page report on political violence and disruption, he also claims law enforcement do not know enough about “the extreme left”.

He says: “I conclude, unsurprisingly, that there is a greater violent threat from the far right.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak told journalists that behaving in an intimidating manner was ‘not the British way’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“Yet I find a worrying gap in our understanding of the extreme left, whose activists do not routinely employ violent methods yet systematically seek to undermine faith in our parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.”

The much previewed report sets out 41 recommendations, including:

– A review of whether undercover surveillance is being used appropriately in the context of public order and aggravated activism.

– The Government should develop a mechanism to review charging decisions by prosecutors to make sure protest laws are being followed properly.

– The law should be changed to allow the police to consider the cumulative effect of protests on antisemitic hate crime levels.

– The intimidation of candidates and campaigners should be specifically criminalised before the next election.

– The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice should review whether juries and judges are more lenient on protesters who support “progressive” causes such as climate change and anti-racism.

– The Government should consider providing extra physical protection for defence and energy companies against protesters, such as a “buffer zone”.

– The intelligence services and relevant Government departments should be given more resources to identify disinformation online and work with technology companies to have it removed.

Lord Walney came under fire before the publication of the report because his interests as declared on the House of Lords register include jobs for companies that also act for energy firms.

He rejected suggestions that such links undermine the credibility of the report on Tuesday, saying at a media Q&A in Westminster: “No it doesn’t. My list of interests is transparently set out.”

Asked whether the recommendation for extra protection for defence and energy companies in particular was connected in any way to his financial interests, Lord Walney said: “My perspective, I think, will be hopefully widely shared that actually no matter what your view is on strength for the defence industry, future mix of energy suppliers that there ought to be in this country, it is not an acceptable way towards the issue by criminal sabotage.

“So I think the level of extra protection for those industries in particular in the spotlight is worth implementing and could be effective.”

Lord Peter Mandelson, who chaired the Q&A, also questioned Lord Walney on how likely his proposals would be to succeed in light of Tuesday’s High Court ruling that the Home Office’s attempt to lower the threshold for serious disruption was unlawful.

The crossbench peer accepted that some of the recommendations may be “laborious” to try to implement but argued that there is currently “not sufficient deterrent effect” to stop “extreme economic disruption.”

He said he wanted to persuade both Government and Opposition to “move as quickly as possible on as many of these recommendations as possible”.

“I just think the public is sick of the way in which they feel that their priorities are ignored there is not sufficient deterrent effect in stopping this kind of extreme economic disruption,” Lord Walney said.

James Cleverly
Home Secretary James Cleverly said the report raised important questions (Joe Giddens/PA)

Just Stop Oil said it did not recognise the legitimacy of the report because of the links, while Extinction Rebellion (XR) called it “shameful” that he had been asked to write the report.

An XR spokesman said: “We are a movement committed to non-violence.

“We train everyone acting in the name of Extinction Rebellion in non-violence.

“We have stewards to manage crowds responsibly. We have a policy for how to clear an area for emergency services.

“If the government can come for a group that works this hard at peaceful protest, they can come for anyone.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly said he would carefully consider Lord Walney’s recommendations.

He said: “The right to protest is a vital part of democracy, but there is absolutely no place for criminality or harassment on our streets. Too often, we have seen vile displays of hate crime and aggressive tactics used by so-called protesters.

“Lord Walney’s report raises important questions on the cumulative impact of disruptive and extremist activity on our communities. I thank Lord Walney and his team for this extensive and compelling report.”

Mr Cleverly said an extra £31 million of funding has been provided for security for MPs, and the definition of extremism has been updated.