Delays in Just Stop Oil court cases ‘undermine confidence in the criminal justice system’

Protesters who will not be tried until 2025 included a group who allegedly scaled a freeway gantry

Protesters who won’t be tried until 2025 included a group who allegedly scaled a freeway gantry – Leon Neal/Getty Images

Just Stop Oil protesters will not face justice for three years due to court delays, prompting warnings that faith in the criminal justice system is being shaken.

The Met Police have revealed that 33 protesters arrested for blocking the M25 in November are not facing trial until 2025, nearly three years after the offence.

Protesters included a group who allegedly climbed a gantry on the freeway in what police described as “extremely dangerous” crime.

“This action is totally disproportionate to any legitimate aim this group might have. It is crime and we will treat it as such, ”said Matt Twist, assistant commissioner of police for the Met.

The charges include “conspiracy to intentionally or recklessly cause a public nuisance”. A new offense under the Policing, Crime, Punishment and Courts Act 2022, it carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

However, with a backlog of more than 60,000 Crown Court cases, more than a quarter have to wait more than a year and more than one in 20 have been delayed for more than two years.

“Unfortunately, early to mid-2025 is becoming the norm for all kinds of short three- to five-day trials for serious crimes, from public disorder to sex offenses,” said a senior attorney with the Criminal Bar Association.

“It undermines confidence in the criminal justice system just when the public needs reassurance that alleged offences, once investigated and charged, do not wait years.”

These cases are in addition to 795 other members of Just Stop Oil who have been charged since March 2023, as well as 130 other people from other environmental protests unrelated to the group during the same period.

There are also 24 Just Stop Oil trials listed for 2024. Last week, Roger Hallam, a Just Stop Oil executive, urged activists to continue their slow march campaign in an attempt to overwhelm the criminal justice system, telling the Mirror: ‘We know that 3,000 arrests is when the judiciary and the police start to crack.

Just Stop Oil has expanded its tactics in recent months, targeting sporting events such as the World Snooker Championship, the England vs Australia Ashes cricket series and last week’s Wimbledon, where two protesters ran onto a pitch and threw shreds of orange paper on the grass.

Last month, the Met said the Just Stop Oil protests had forced it to dedicate 16,500 teams of officers to policing them at a total cost of around £5.5million.

“That’s around 150 officers a day during this phase and from my perspective, as someone who cares deeply about crime in London, what I could do with 150 officers preventing thefts or investigating crimes or supporting the victims, is really important,” Mr. Torsion said.

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