Police will be given powers to arrest protesters who wear face coverings to threaten others and avoid prosecution, and pyrotechnics will be banned at protests. The new laws will crack down on dangerous disorder, following warnings from police chiefs that some protesters are using face coverings to conceal their identities, not only to intimidate the law-abiding majority, but also to avoid criminal convictions. Whilst police already have powers to ask individuals to remove these at designated protests, where police believe criminality is likely to occur, this new offence will empower officers to arrest individuals who disregard their orders, with those who flout the rules facing a month behind bars and a £1,000 fine.
Flares and other pyrotechnics will also be banned from protests, and protesters will no longer be able to cite the right to protest as a reasonable excuse to get away with disruptive offences, such as blocking roads. Flares and other pyrotechnics have been used during recent large scale protests, including being fired at police officers, posing significant risk of injury. The new offence will make the possession of flares, fireworks and any other pyrotechnics at public processions and assemblies for protest illegal. Perpetrators may be forced to pay a £1,000 fine.
The measures, which will be introduced in the Criminal Justice Bill, will also make climbing on war memorials a specific public order offence, carrying a 3 month sentence and a £1,000 fine. This comes after recent incidents where individuals have broken away from large protests and scaled national monuments, demonstrating brazen disrespect to those who have given their lives for this country.
Alongside the new offences, the ability to use the right to protest as a reasonable or lawful excuse to commit some crimes would also be removed, ensuring that protest is not used as a defence for criminality such as obstructing public highways, locking on, as well as public nuisance...