Was the slow drive protest by private hire drivers in Leeds today legal?

The 'slow drive' protest by private hire drivers in Leeds this morning brought parts of the city centre to a halt and created significant disruption to bus services.

Private hire vehicles take part in a 'slow drive' protest in Leeds. Picture: Simon Hulme

Delays and cancellations to some services have continued long after the protest finished at 10am, prompting some disgruntled passengers to question why the protest was allowed in the first place.

Chief Inspector Nick Ireland, of the city’s community safety partnership Safer Leeds, said: “This morning’s protest by private hire drivers in Leeds caused significant disruption to traffic, particularly on Kirkstall Road and around the city centre loop.

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“The police will always facilitate peaceful and lawful demonstrations, and a policing operation, including the use of specialist police motorcyclists, was in place with the aim of allowing the protesters to make their point while keeping disruption to the public to a minimum."

The protest was first announced around a week ago, meaning there was time for talks to take place between organisers and the police as required.

Drivers had said they planned to travel at speeds of 15mph, but some received warning from police when they came to a complete stop.

Wilfully obstructing the highway is a criminal offence under the Highways Act 1980 and can be punishable with a fine of up to £1,000.

Chief Insp Ireland said: "We previously held discussions with the drivers who stated it was their intention to drive slowly in traffic at 15mph. The situation this morning was not helped by the number of protesters who had to be formally warned by officers for bringing their vehicles to a complete stop, obstructing the highway.

“We will be continuing to liaise with the group around any further demonstrations and will ensure that suitable measures are in place, although we recognise that protests of this type during peak traffic times will always cause disruption.”