Insulate Britain M25 protesters handed suspended sentences

Protesters hold banner in from of vans and cars
Insulate Britain members held protests lasting nine hours at the Purfleet Interchange [PA Media]

Police have criticised environmental protesters sentenced after blocking a roundabout near an M25 junction.

Essex Police said thousands of people were "inconvenienced" by the protest near Purfleet in September 2021.

The force issued a statement after nine Insulate Britain supporters were sentenced for public nuisance offences.

One protester said she was disappointed that jurors at the Reading Crown Court trial had not seen the "bigger picture".

The protest had been staged near Junction 31 - the Purfleet interchange, police said.

Prosecutors said the disruption lasted for nine hours and hampered the emergency services responding to other incidents, as well as causing a closure to the Dartford Tunnel.

National Highways said after the event that the protest had caused delays for motorists totalling 7,836 hours and costing £118,637.

Judge Sarah Campbell handed down nine suspended jail sentences at a hearing on Friday.

The police, and Insulate Britain, said seven people were convicted of causing a public nuisance by jurors after a trial.

Two others earlier pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance.

Traffic on a motorway
Police have criticised protesters who disrupted traffic on the M25 in September 2021 [PA Media]

"These individuals did not need to get criminal records," Det Sgt Chris Arnold said in a statement.

"Their actions inconvenienced thousands of people and took up valuable police time; time which would have been better spent catching criminals causing harm in our communities."

He added: "We know that the right to protest is enshrined in law, and policing will always seek to facilitate it.

"But what happened in September 2021 was not legal; it was criminal disruption which severely impacted many people."

Janine Eagling, 63, a former IT manager from Waltham Forest, London, said in a statement released by Insulate Britain that protesters wanted to "bring down the nation's carbon footprint".

"I am disappointed that the jury were not able to see beyond the relatively minor disruption that was caused on the road that day by our group and see the bigger picture of our motivation," she said.

Louise Lancaster, 58, a retired teacher from Cambridge, added: "Prosecute the real criminals. Give young people a chance of a liveable future."

The suspended terms imposed at Reading Crown Court were between 12 and 16 weeks.

The group was also ordered to carry out unpaid work and pay costs totalling £6,650.

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