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Protesters climbing war memorials face three-month jail term under government plans

Protesters who climb on war memorials could face three months in prison and a £1,000 fine under plans put forward by the home secretary.

James Cleverly said ascending memorials was “an insult” and “cannot continue” and announced the crackdown - in response to pro-Palestine protesters who climbed on the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner in November.

At the time, the home secretary vowed to look at ways to give police new powers to protect remembrance sites.

Peaceful protest is fundamental in our county, but climbing on our war memorials is an insult to these monuments of remembrance and cannot continue

Home Secretary James Cleverly

Downing Street at the time described the behaviour as an “affront”, but Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said arresting protesters for scaling the memorial would have been unlawful.

He said the move by demonstrators was “unfortunate” and “inflammatory in certain ways” but not against the law as he was questioned about the force’s response to the event on Wednesday.

The Home Office said that, under new plans to criminalise such activity, climbing on war memorials will become a specific public order offence.

James Cleverly said scaling war memorials is ‘an insult’ (Victoria Jones, PA) (PA Wire)
James Cleverly said scaling war memorials is ‘an insult’ (Victoria Jones, PA) (PA Wire)

It said the measure would “stop protesters disrespecting those who have given their lives for our country”.

The announcement comes after 10,000 pro-Palestine supporters marched in central London on Saturday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Mr Cleverly, who was a Territorial Army officer in the Royal Artillery, said: “Recent protests have seen a small minority dedicated to causing damage and insulting those who paid the ultimate price for their freedom to protest.

“Peaceful protest is fundamental in our county, but climbing on our war memorials is an insult to these monuments of remembrance and cannot continue.

“That is why I am giving police the powers they need to ensure they have the tools to keep order and peace on our streets.”

The measure, designed to apply across England and Wales, is scheduled to be introduced as an amendment at the report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill in the House of Commons.

The proposal will form part of a wider plan, due to be unveiled this week, aimed at tackling disorder at protests, the Home Office said.