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Sunak backs police powers used to arrest protesters at King's coronation

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (PA)
Sam Blewett, PA Deputy Political Editor

Rishi Sunak has defended the new police powers used to arrest anti-monarchy campaigners and prevent them protesting at the King’s coronation amid warnings they are too sweeping.

The Prime Minister backed the Metropolitan Police and said it was right to give officers the ability to tackle “serious disruption” despite concerns of a crackdown on the right to protest.

Scotland Yard has expressed “regret” at the arrests of six campaigners with the Republic group after they were told no charges will be brought after being held for 16 hours.

Former Greater Manchester police chief Sir Peter Fahy said the Public Order Act used to detain the protesters was “very poorly defined and far too broad”.

Senior Tory MP David Davis agreed and suggested the Commons Home Affairs Committee should investigate.

Mr Sunak thanked the Met and others behind the coronation on Saturday for ensuring “everything went off so smoothly and was so successful”.

“Of course people have the right to protest freely but peacefully but it is also right that people have the ability to go about their day-to-day lives without facing serious disruption,” he told broadcasters during a visit to Southampton.

“What the Government has done is give the police the powers that they need to tackle instances of serious disruption to people’s lives.

“I think that is the right thing to do and the police will make decisions on when they use those powers.”

Asked if nothing about the arrests made him feel uncomfortable, the Prime Minister said police are “rightly, operationally independent of Government”.

“They make the decisions on the ground in the way they see fit,” he added.

“It wouldn’t be right for me to interfere with their operational decisions but it is right for the Government to give the police the powers to tackle serious disruption.”

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