New powers are to be introduced which will give police in England and Wales the power to arrest protestors wearing face coverings to threaten others and avoid prosecution.
Protestors could face arrest for up to a month and be forced to pay a £1,000 fine if police use their discretion to arrest someone under this offence.
Possession of flares, and other pyrotechnics being used for protests will also be banned. Additionally, protestors will not be able to use their right to protest as a reasonable excuse to get away with disruptive offences.
The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, said there has been ‘a small minority dedicated to causing damage and intimidating the law-abiding majority’. This is why the Home Office are giving police forces the power to ‘prevent any of this criminality on our streets’.
Chief constable Ben-Julian Harrington, National Police Chiefs Council Lead for public order welcomed the proposals, saying: ‘as with all policing powers, these new powers will be used when appropriate, proportionate and necessary to achieve policing objectives’.
Shadow Home Office minister Dan Jarvis has criticised the ban on face coverings, saying the Labour Party will carefully scrutinise the government’s proposals. He highlighted the case of dissidents opposing oppressive regimes outside foreign embassies in the UK who cover their faces to protect themselves and families abroad from harm. He said that the UK ‘is and should always be a safe haven’ for people engaging in this kind of protest.
Akiko Hart, the director of human rights group, Liberty, said: ‘bringing in these powers puts people at greater risk of being criminalised for exercising their right to protest’.