Police are calling for anyone who missed work, doctors’ appointments or ‘significant life events’ due to Just Stop Oil protesters bringing the M25 to a standstill to get in touch as they consider prosecuting the eco-campaigners.
Activists blocked three parts of the M25 when they scaled gantries and dropped Just Stop Oil banners just minutes after issuing a statement declaring the orbital motorway ‘a site of civil resistance’ on July 20.
Specialist climbing officers had to be called in to remove the protesters as drivers became stuck in nine miles of traffic after parts of the motorway were closed for several hours.
The protesters included Louise Lancaster, a 56-year-old former teacher and mother-of-three from Cambridge, who climbed a gantry just north of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge in Thurrock, Essex.
Essex Police today appealed to the ‘substantial number of people’ affected by the motorway blockade to come forward.
Detective Sergeant Harriet Ware, who is leading the investigation, said: ‘We are aware this incident caused a significant amount of disruption to motorists and many people have been significantly inconvenienced by them.
Louise Lancaster, 56, a former teacher and mother-of-three from Cambridge, scaled a gantry in Thurrock just north of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge
Traffic chaos on the M25 as Just Stop Oil protesters blocked three parts of the motorway after scaling overhead gantries
Police at the scene of an empty stretch of the motorway on July 20 after parts of the road had to be closed
A Just Stop Oil banner hanging over the M25 anticlockwise in Surrey, between Cobham and Guildford during the protest
A police van waits as protesters from climate campaign group ‘Just Stop Oil’ climbed overhead motorway gantries on the M25 between junction 14 and junction 15 – causing both carriageways to be closed
‘Our complex investigations are progressing and we would now like to hear from anyone who has not yet spoken to us but believes they have been inconvenienced by the disruption.
‘I know a substantial number of people will have been simply delayed by the disruption but specifically I would like to hear from anyone who could not attend medical appointments, could not attend planned work and therefore missed out on payment, missed, or were severely delayed, attending any significant life events.
‘Coming forward will help us progress our investigations and help ensure we can keep the county’s roads moving freely in future.’
Essex Police says it is continuing to work with the Crown Prosecution Service on the issue along with other affected forces.
A statement added: ‘Officers responded to an incident on the M25 on Wednesday, July 20, when a protester gained access to an overhead gantry near Junction 30 for Thurrock.
‘This resulted in the motorway having to be closed and a specialist working at heights team having to be brought to the scene to get the protestor down safely.
‘Their actions meant disruption was kept to an absolute minimum for motorists in Essex.
‘The arrest has led to an investigation and, like other forces affected, we are continuing to work with the Crown Prosecution Service.
The officer speaks to the protestor who climbed overhead motorway gantries on the M25 between junction 14 and junction 15 causing both carriageways to be closed by police
‘Our investigations are progressing and we are now asking for anyone who was inconvenienced during these incidents to please come forward and do so.’
A spokesperson added that the appeal was to assist with a criminal investigation into the protests.
Any injunction brought against the protesters would need to be led by Highways England, which has jurisdiction over the motorway.
Protesters also climbed overhead gantries over the M25 at the Poyle Interchange between Junction 14 and Junction 15 near Heathrow Airport, with police having to close the motorway in both directions before a man and two women were arrested.
A similar demonstration took place near Junction 10 between Cobham and Guildford today, too, causing nine miles of traffic and hour-long delays.
It came shortly after Just Stop Oil said it was ‘declaring the M25 a site of civil resistance’ in response to the UK recording its hottest ever day as temperatures surpassed 40C for the first time ever.
Bus driver Ashley Reid, who takes special needs children aged seven to 10 to a school in Leatherhead by travelling between Junction 12 and 10, was among those caught up in the disruption.
He said his pupils who started at 9.15am were around 90 minutes late for their last day of term as a result of the disruption.
The 40-year-old, from Reigate, added: ‘We joined [the motorway] just after 9am and we didn’t arrive at school until 10.45am… with their autism [they] found it difficult to understand and stay calm.
‘It was really disruptive and I felt so sorry for them… today was their last day before the summer break and they would all be changing classes so they just wanted to get to school and spend time with their teachers and friends.’
Mrs Lancaster pictured during a demonstration outside the Home Office in Marsham Street, Westminster, London in September last year
Former teacher Louise Lancaster and husband Tim, a director of a climate change research group, pictured taking part in an Insulate Britain protest on Southwark Bridge last year
‘I am sympathetic to the cause that these people are protesting against; however, they are disrupting a lot of innocent motorists and (in my opinion) will lose more sympathy than they gain.’
At the time, Frank Bird, National Highways senior network planner, described the demonstration as ‘extremely dangerous’.
He said: ‘We respect people’s right to protest. However, protesting on the strategic road network is extremely dangerous, not just for the protesters but for people using the roads.
‘Along with the police and other partners, we are working hard to limit the effects of protests on the strategic road network.’