It’s a day of law and order announcements at the Tory party conference, with home secretary Priti Patel promising tough new powers to stop climate protestors from blocking motorways – as they have continued to do, despite injunctions from Highways England and the threat of imprisonment.
Kit Malthouse, the policing minister told Sky News this morning the government needed faster, Asbo-style, Criminal Disruption Prevention Orders to stop protestors who “cross the line” between exercising their legal rights and disrupting critical infrastructure. In extreme cases, they could be banned from travelling to protests by a judge.
These powers will be amendments to the already lengthy and controversial Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, and are unlikely to be made law until the New Year, so it may be a while until Insulate Britain feel the force of these laws. There are already concerns from civil liberties campaigners and MPs about the proposed crackdown on protests, with Labour MPs pointing to heavy-handed policing of the Sarah Everard vigil earlier this year.
The horrific Everard case still dominates the headlines, with the justice secretary Dominic Raab saying the need to protect women and girls is his “number one priority”. But rape convictions are “disgracefully low”, a minister in his department openly admitted this morning, and victims are routinely waiting three years for suspects to be convicted due to backlogs in the courts.
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The new secretary of state for justice has told the Conservative Party conference that he plans to make communities safer.
Priti Patel’s speech, I’m told, will be heavy on the government’s achievements in ending free movement of people and bringing in a points-based immigration system, with attacks on Labour for opposing it all.
She will take an unapologetically tough line on the controversial measures she has outlined to prevent migrant boats crossing the Channel – savaged by her critics as cruel – saying these are “economic migrants” leaving a safe country.
Her hardline approach will be music to the ears of many Tory activists. Patel’s team expect cheers in the hall, but say this is not simply rhetoric “it’s all about delivery, and as the Prime Minister said this morning, this approach is genuinely popular”.