The recent court decision with regards the initial charges brought against Insulate Britain (IB) for their actions on the M25, forced the government to seek alternatives. As things stand none of the court’s decisions can be challenged by ordinary citizens. This has to change and the third part of our fourth demand ‘The Peoples Consent’ would allow this to happen.
By blocking the highway these protesters are breaking Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, which is a criminal offence, and punishable with a fine from £100 up to £1000. My instincts tell me most people watching IB’s antics on their TVs will be furious and completely mystified by the inaction of the police.
However, our laws are seldom clear cut and are always open to interpretation by clever lawyers, who get rich at our expense, as they test every law to breaking point on behalf of their clients. The problem with this particular law originates from the inclusion of just three words, that blocking the highway is an offence, ‘without just cause’.
The Ziegler judgement in June, handed down by the Supreme Court, held that the exercising of the protester’s rights, in line with the ECHR, could constitute a ‘lawful excuse’ for obstructing the highway even if the protest is considered disruptive.
This ambiguity in this existing law is the reason the government sought an injunction in the High Court against blocking the M25 which if the protesters broke would lead to a ‘contempt of court’ ruling. This more serious offence could lead to a civil court hearing and possible imprisonment.
I feel pretty sure the people would have something to say as to whether blocking the M25, in a campaign to insulate homes, was a ‘just cause’ allowing protesters to break the 1980 Highways Act, but currently we are excluded from giving our opinion. I suspect that the people’s interpretation of a ‘just cause’ might stretch to blocking the road to prevent the traffic encountering a herd of cattle that had strayed on the road or a large truck fire but they would not extend to worrying about the long-term impact of the natural process of climate change and the need to insulate homes – anyway I thought the concern was that the planet was warming?!
In conclusion, I believe real democracy demands that the people can have their say on decisions made by our judges if of course enough people wish it.
Finally, I cannot leave this this topic without making this observation. Any government that governed for the wishes of the majority should in theory never leave office. In which case it is incomprehensible why so many governments are influenced, pander and act on behalf of minority pressure groups and so often to the detriment of the majority of its citizens.