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Section 1 Public Order Act 2023: Locking-On

Locking-on has been used as a method of protest for many years. It means attaching yourself to something, or someone, generally as a way of making it more difficult for you to be removed, and thus prolonging a protest.

With the introduction of the new Public Order Act 2023 on 3rd May 2023, under Section 1, locking-on is now its own criminal offence.

What is the law surrounding locking-on and how does it work in practice?

Section 1 of the Public Order Act 2023 provides that a person commits an offence of locking-on where they either:

  • Attach themselves to another person, to an object or to land;
  • Attach a person to another person, to an object or land; or
  • Attach an object to another object or to land

This action must cause, or be capable of causing, serious disruption to two or more individuals or an organisation and must be in a place other than a dwelling.

Persons must intend to cause serious disruption or be reckless as to causing serious disruption.


The statutory defence (i.e. the defence written into the legislation itself, but importantly not the only defence that is applicable) for an offence of locking on under Section 1 POA 2023 is reasonable excuse.

This means that defendant (s) could argue that they had a reasonable excuse to lock-on, as they were exercising their rights to protest as set out in the European Convention, and that any arrest, prosecution and/or conviction would be a disproportionate interference with these Convention rights and would therefore be unlawful.

If a case goes to court, if the Crown Prosecution Service have proven the act of locking on, the burden shifts to the defence to demonstrate that they had a reasonable excuse for their actions.

In order to show this reasonable excuse, we will argue that an assessment of proportionality, shows that a conviction would be a disproportionate interference with the defendant’s Convention rights


The offence of locking is what’s classed as a ‘summary only’ offence. This means that it can only be tried in a Magistrates Court. Depending on the date on which the offence was allegedly committed, the maximum sentence is either six months’ imprisonment, or 51 weeks’ imprisonment.


There is a rising criminalisation of protest, and increasing harshness in punishment of protesters. It is essential that anyone taking action in a protest is fully informed of potential offences with which they may be arrested, investigated or charged. You must know your rights in order to assert them.

If you are concerned about the possibility of arrest or prosecution related to a protest, please call one of our Crime experts on 0330 822 3451 , who will be able to assist you.

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