Rishi Sunak has hit out at a reported criticism from the United Nations over lengthy sentences handed to the Dartford Crossing oil protesters - highlighting a heavily pregnant woman in need of "urgent care" who was caught in the disruption.

Ian Fry, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, has raised with ministers the sentences handed to Just Stop Oil campaigners who scaled the Dartford Crossing in October 2022.

Morgan Trowland, 40, and Marcus Decker, 34, were jailed for three years and two years and seven months respectively after using ropes and other climbing gear to scale the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, causing gridlock when police closed it to traffic.

Mr Fry, according to BBC News, said the sentences were “significantly more severe than previous sentences imposed for this type of offending in the past” and that he was worried about the “exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association”.

But the Prime Minister said it was “entirely right” to hand “tough sentences” to demonstrators who cause major disruption.

“Those who break the law should feel the full force of it,” he tweeted.

“It’s entirely right that selfish protestors (sic) intent on causing misery to the hard-working majority face tough sentences.

“It’s what the public expects and it’s what we’ve delivered.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said a report by Essex Police found a heavily pregnant woman “who needed urgent medical help” was among those caught up in the disruption during the direct action on the crossing over the River Thames in south-east England.

 The No 10 official said judges had the UK Government’s “full backing” to use the new powers given to them by MPs to punish those carrying out disruptive protests.

Last month, Trowland and Decker lost a bid to challenge their sentences at the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court.

In July, the protesters lost an appeal over what their lawyers said were the “extraordinary length” of their jail terms.

In their ruling, the judges acknowledged the “long and honourable tradition of civil disobedience on conscientious grounds” and that the sentences handed to Trowland and Decker went “well beyond previous sentences imposed for this type of offending”.

But Lady Chief Justice Lady Carr said the jail terms were “not excessive” and reflected “Parliament’s will” under new laws enacted under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act last year.

The legislation introduced a new “fault-based public nuisance offence for what obviously will include non-violent protest behaviour, with a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment”, the appeal judges said.

Lady Carr said the sentences met the “legitimate” aim of deterring others from such offending.

Mr Sunak’s spokesman told reporters: “While it is not for us to comment on specific decisions of the court, it is entirely right that the courts… use the tough new powers that Parliament has granted and they have our full backing to do so.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has been contacted for comment.