Five climate protesters who blocked the entrance to the country’s largest oil terminal and “stretched” the resources of the police who took care of the queen’s funeral, have walked free from court.
Around 50 Just Stop Oil campaigners were arrested after a sit-in over the main entrance to the Kingsbury Oil Terminal in Warwickshire on 14 September.
A High Court injunction handed down in April, following an application by North Warwickshire Borough Council, had banned such actions.
During a civil hearing at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Emma Kelly heard how protesters stopped oil tankers from coming and going for four and a half hours before police began making arrests.
She heard how Jerard Latimer, George Oakenfold, Anthony Whitehouse, Chloe Naldrett and Darcy Mitchell, who all admitted breaching the order, were among a group who also stopped a terminal worker leaving the site to attend a medical appointment.
Opening contempt of court proceedings against the five protesters, attorney Jonathan Manning, for the council, said the purpose of the injunction was “not in any way to prohibit lawful protest outside the terminal, but simply to prohibit dangerous activities that some protesters have engaged in . in”.
He listed examples of such activities as having mobile phones near “the terminals where there is a high risk of explosion” and “tunneling under roads”.
Manning also said: “Many of the officers from Warwickshire Police were used to police the period of national mourning and funeral arrangements for the Queen.
“They had to be brought back from that to provide the necessary numbers to safely arrest these protesters.”
Manning said officers were also drawn in under existing mutual assistance agreements, from neighboring forces, adding that “the impact on police resources was quite significant”.
I am retired and should be out there taking care of my allotment
All five admitted to breaching the order, but – who represented themselves in court – made mitigating statements.
Whitehouse, a pensioner, told the court he was demonstrating because of the “climate crisis”.
“How can I not but protest against this terrible situation?
“Even the new king has said that we should be on a wartime footing in the face of the climate crisis.
“I personally have no choice but to stand up and resist the powerful corporations that are driving us over a cliff.
“I’m retired and should be out there taking care of my allotment.
“Instead, I am being criminalized for taking a morally correct stand against this injustice and the damage we are inflicting on the planet and future generations.”
Mitchell, a married parent, said the government was “pursuing the exploitation of new oil and gas reserves in the North Sea” and a policy that would “cause our societies to collapse”, adding: “I stand by my actions.”
Oakenfold, a retired 78-year-old, said: “I managed for 77 years without coming into contact with the police.
“I regret taking up the police’s time and the court’s and am aware of the cost to the state … I don’t want to go to jail.
“But with respect, that is nothing at all compared to the extreme danger we now find ourselves in due to rising temperatures around the world.”
Latimer said: “The effect of this injunction is to silence dissent.”
When asked about his financial means, Latimer, another pensioner, replied that he had been a stay-at-home dad “in the nappy days” and relied on his wife’s private pension.
“She’s very against me doing this,” he added, before raising a smile from the judge as he said “the less you charge me the better, your honor”.
Your actions caused considerable damage to Warwickshire Police as resources were already stretched to capacity by the Queen’s death
Judge Emma Kelly
Naldrett, a 42-year-old theater producer, mother of two and Cambridge University graduate, said: “I have a strong sense of duty as a citizen, as a professional and as a parent.
“I pay my taxes. This was not where I expected to find myself.
“I have no immediate pretension to break the order again, but think it is a proportionate response to the climate crisis.”
Judge Kelly, sentencing, said: “Your actions caused significant harm to Warwickshire Police when resources were already stretched to capacity by the Queen’s death.
“Just because of the sheer number of you who had chosen to gather in one place, it created a risk of clearly significant harm should police be needed elsewhere.”
The judge jailed each of the protesters for 23 days, but suspended the terms for two years, because it was their “first offense”.
She also took into account the fact “prior to this incident you have lived completely law-abiding and worthwhile lives, making significant contributions to society”.