SURREY Police say it is preparing for the return of Insulate Britain protests on the M25 next week, promising robust action to deal with any significant disruption.
Officers have been on standby throughout the last few weeks to deal with any protests, though the last one to affect Surrey was on September 21.
Surrey Police is also working with other police forces and with the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the arrests of 130 people during the last protests, and is waiting for the CPS to respond with advice on how to charge them.
Chief Superintendent Jerry Westerman said: “One of the frustrating things has been they don’t tell us where and when they’re going to protest, but we’ve got an idea that they’re on hold at the moment are going to start again next week.
“We really expect that to continue next week and probably for the week beyond so we’re putting in policing plans to make sure that we do respond pretty quickly and pretty effectively. So we minimise the disruption as much as we can.”
He added: “We will, if there is another protest, assess each event on its own individual merits when it occurs.
“But if it is disrupting the M25 or other strategic roads and causing the significant disruption and the risk of harm that comes with that, then our approach is very much the same, which is that that kind of protest is unreasonable, and we will take firm, robust action to arrest and remove those protesters.”
Regarding the arrests, Ch Supt Westerman said that files had been submitted to the CPS and that the force was waiting for direction and advice in return that would inform the decision on what to charge protesters with, and how many of them to charge.
He said: “At the moment nobody has been charged, but we’re hoping to get that advice back from the CPS, very shortly and then that will drive our direction moving forward in terms of charging individuals.”
Surrey Police has spent an estimated 4,000 policing hours on the protests so far, according to Chief Constable Gavin Stephens who led a briefing on Thursday.
He said: “We don’t have an extra supply of police officers, staff, volunteers that we can just bring out when something like this happens. It is a distraction from our wider policing duty.”
Ch Supt Westerman said there was a lack of engagement on the part of protesters to help police make sure the protests were safe, while recognising their right to protest.
He said: “Policing protest is part of our role but we all recognise that while officers are policing these types of protests they are not carrying out other activity.
“Protest is a legitimate right in this country and we have a role to play in policing that. [But] it is frustrating. The amount of disruption that has been caused and the lack of engagement from the protest groups in terms of engaging with us.
“We are happy to have those conversations about protest that is safe and proportionate. Unfortunately we’re not getting that.”
Police are appealing for anyone who was significantly affected to come forward to help put together evidence in the cases.