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Climate Protests in Cambridge: Police Response

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:39 pm on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 3:39 pm, 3rd March 2020

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. As I have said, my aim is not to inflame things, but to ensure that the police have clarity on their powers to act. I also strongly support the police, who I recognise are caught between a rock and a hard place. I know that fundamentally they want to uphold the law, but the guidance and interpretation can be confusing.

There are two questions that need answering: first, why did the police stand by as crimes were committed; and secondly, what can be done to ensure that they will uphold the law in future? I have met the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable of Cambridgeshire, who are now conducting a review of the lessons learned. It is not clear that the police would do anything differently if it happened again. They are sharing the learnings with other police forces across the country that are developing their own plans in case of similar protests. Cambridgeshire police have welcomed this Adjournment debate, as they hope it will help generate agreement on how they should respond in future. I know that, following the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, the Metropolitan police is also considering these issues with Home Office officials.

Having considered the arguments carefully and examined the relevant legislation and court judgments, I believe that none of the reasons for police inaction stands up to scrutiny. I contend that the police did have legal grounds to act even under existing legislation.