The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 came into force 22 May and increased the penalty for obstruction of the highway to include a prison sentence not exceeding 51 weeks. The increase of penalty was government's response to obstruction of the highway by protestors, but insertion in Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 extends the penalty to obstruction of any public right of way.

Words in s. 137(1) inserted (12.5.2022) by Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (c. 32), ss. 80(2)(a), 208(1); S.I. 2022/520, reg. 4(b) (with reg. 8) mean that the updated S137(1) Penalty for wilful obstruction now reads:

If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine or both.

(1A) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (alteration of penalties for certain summary offences: England and Wales), the reference in subsection (1) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to 6 months.

(1B) For the purposes of this section it does not matter whether free passage along the highway in question has already been temporarily restricted or temporarily prohibited (whether by a constable, a traffic authority or otherwise).

(1C) In subsection (1B), “traffic authority” has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (see section 121A of that Act).