Protesters who climb over war memorials or try to hide their identity could face jail under Government plans to change the law, led by Essex MP James Cleverly.

Police in England and Wales will be given powers to arrest protesters who cover their face in a bid to avoid prosecution, while people who scale national monuments could face a three-month prison sentence and a £1,000 fine, as part of the proposals.

Home Secretary and Braintree MP James Cleverly said: “Recent protests have seen a small minority dedicated to causing damage and intimidating the law-abiding majority.

“The right to protest is paramount in our county, but taking flares to marches to cause damage and disruption is not protest, it is dangerous.

“That is why we are giving police the powers to prevent any of this criminality on our streets.”

The measures – which will be added to the Criminal Justice Bill currently being considered by Parliament – will also make it illegal to carry flares and other pyrotechnics at protests amid efforts to “crack down on dangerous disorder”, according to the Home Office.

Echo: Protesters let off flares as they stand in the fountain at the Queen Victoria Memorial.Protesters let off flares as they stand in the fountain at the Queen Victoria Memorial. (Image: PA)

The right to protest is “no longer an excuse for certain public order offences”, the department said as it announced the plans this morning.

But campaigners have branded the measures a “threat to everybody’s right to protest”.

Under the reforms, possession of flares, fireworks and any other pyrotechnics – which the Home Office said had recently posed “significant risk of injury” and had been fired at police officers – at public processions and assemblies for protest will be made illegal, with perpetrators also facing a £1,000 fine.

Protesters will also no longer be able to cite the right to protest as a reasonable excuse to get away with “disruptive” offences, such as blocking roads, the department added.

Essex Police chief constable BJ Harrington, who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s work on public order, welcomed the plans, adding that it will make sure officers “have the powers that we need to get balance right between the rights of those who wish to protest, and those impacted by them”.

The use of flares and pyrotechnics at protests is “rare” but “they are still extremely dangerous”, he said, adding: “Safety is our number one concern when policing these events, and the effective banning of these items during protests can only help in our mission to ensure that they take place without anyone coming to any harm.”

He stressed the powers would be used “when appropriate, proportionate, and necessary to achieve policing objectives”, but insisted police were not “anti-protest.”

“There is a difference between protest and criminal activism, and we are committed to responding quickly and effectively to activists who deliberately disrupt people’s lives with reckless and criminal acts,” he said.

Akiko Hart, director of human rights group Liberty, said: “These new proposed anti-protest measures are a massive overreach by the Government and a threat to everybody’s right to protest.

“This is an outrageous attempt to clamp down on our fundamental right to stand up for what we believe in.

The proposals will be introduced as amendments at the Bill’s report stage in the Commons.