Three Extinction Rebellion activists were today unanimously cleared of obstructing the railway with a stunt on top of a Docklands Light Railway train – just nine days after four other protesters were cleared over the Edward Colston statue toppling.
Former university lecturer Philip Kingston, 85, Anglican priest Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, and Father Martin Newell, 54, all climbed on top of the train during rush-hour.
The trio, who are members of Christian Climate Action within environmental group XR, caused chaos on October 17, 2019 at Shadwell station in East London.
Kingston, Parfitt and Newell were charged with obstructing an engine or carriage on the railway, but were cleared by a jury at Inner London Crown Court this morning.
The DLR train which was travelling from Lewisham to Bank was about 70 per cent full of passengers – and the court heard the protest caused 77 minutes of disruption.
Father Martin Newell, 54, and Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, used a ladder to climb on the DLR roof as part of an Extinction Rebellion demonstration at Shadwell station on October 17, 2019
Phillip Kingston, 85, superglued himself to the side of the carriage on October 17, 2019
(From left) Martin Newell, Sue Parfitt and Philip Kingston stand together on October 18, 2019
Kingston superglued his hand to the DLR train while Reverend Parfitt and Father Newell climbed on the roof and said prayers for the planet shortly before 7am.
The trio said they were strongly motivated by their Christian faith, while Kingston said the futures of his four grandchildren also prompted him to take part.
Airliner climate crisis protester has sentence cut by appeal judges
A former Paralympic athlete given a 12-month jail term after supergluing himself to the roof of a British Airways plane at London City Airport in a bid to draw attention to the climate crisis today had his sentence cut to four months by appeal judges.
Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown, of Exeter, Devon, was jailed by a judge at Southwark Crown Court in September after being convicted of causing a public nuisance.
Lawyers representing Brown, who has been registered blind since birth, challenged his conviction and sentence at a Court of Appeal hearing in London in December.
Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown
Three appeal judges, Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Goss, ruled today that the 12-month jail term should be cut to four months. They dismissed his appeal against conviction.
The three judges had said at the appeal hearing that Brown, who is in his late 50s, could be released on bail, pending the delivery of their ruling.
They imposed a bail condition which barred him from entering any airport where commercial flights operate.
Lawyers representing Brown said there had been no reason to charge him with causing a public nuisance, questioned the proportionality of the decision to bring the charge, and said he could have been charged with aggravated trespass.
Brown superglued himself to a BA plane at London City Airport in October 2019
They also told appeal judges that custody was not justified on the facts of the case. Lawyers argued that the 12-month term was ‘manifestly disproportionate’ and said Brown suffered ‘unique hardship’ in prison because of his disability.
Judge Gregory Perrins, who had jailed Brown, said when passing sentence after the trial that he had ‘cynically used’ his disability and put his ‘own life at risk’ to carry out the stunt at London City Airport on October 10, 2019.
The double gold medallist climbed onto the plane, which was destined for Amsterdam, before gluing his right hand to the aircraft and wedging his mobile phone in the door to prevent it from closing. He streamed the protest until he was removed after an hour.
Brown, whose family are from Belfast, represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before going on to represent Ireland in cross-country skiing. Southwark Crown Court heard that 337 passengers had their flights cancelled, with the disruption costing the airline around £40,000.
Brown, who represented himself at his trial, denied one count of causing a public nuisance, claiming he had ‘to do something spectacular’ to draw attention to the climate crisis. But he was found guilty after a jury deliberated for less than an hour.
In what they said was an attempt to appeal to the public and the Government about the dangers of climate change and the financial institutions whose actions damage the planet, they targeted a train which was one stop away from Bank, in the City of London’s financial district.
Some 15 trains were delayed or cancelled but none were stuck in tunnels.
This was partly because, according to the activists, they had planned the demonstration to ensure there was no risk to public safety, by taking measures including targeting a station above ground and having ten more Extinction Rebellion activists on the platform to ensure violence did not break out.
Kingston, Parfitt and Newell all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The verdict comes after four people were cleared of criminal damage over toppling the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and throwing it in the harbour.
The bronze memorial to the 17th century figure was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 7, 2020, and those responsible were acquitted on January 5 following an 11-day trial at Bristol Crown Court.
And in April last year, six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors they had no defence in law.
Yesterday, Kingston told Inner London Crown Court that his grandchildren are ‘the greatest concern’ in his life and that his Catholic faith also influenced his decision to take part in the demonstration.
‘I have four grandchildren and they are the greatest concern in my life because my understanding of the temperature that the earth is heading towards is going to be mighty difficult for them and their generation,’ he said.
‘I have a very strong belief that this man Jesus shows me the way of life, which is giving all our use for others… I appreciate this principle that the order of my life is to, as far as I can, to put others first.
‘The poorest people in the world who have done the least to cause these high temperatures are the ones who are suffering the most from extremes of weather.
‘They don’t have the resources that we have (in the UK) to in some way cope reasonably with what is happening to us.’
Kingston, from south Wales and now living in Patchway, south Gloucestershire, told the court he worked as a lecturer at Bristol University for 27 years, and he had been employed as a probation officer before this.
He said he hoped to appeal to the public and the Government about ‘climate breakdown’ through the protest, adding that some passengers did ‘engage’ with his views on the day.
‘I hope to achieve the attention of fellow citizens and also of the Government, who I believe are responding quite inadequately to the huge dangers we are facing in regard to the climate and I wanted to draw attention to that,’ he said.
Kingston said the ‘safety of passengers was the primary consideration’ of the group’s planning ahead of the stunt, and he was as certain ‘as humanly possible’ that no-one would be put at risk.
When asked whether, if the safety of passengers had been in question, he would still have proceeded with the stunt, he said: ‘No, not at all.’
He added that initially passengers reacted angrily, but after he spoke with those nearby, ‘the anger subsided and they were beginning to engage’.
Prosecuting, Edmund Blackman said yesterday that reaching a guilty verdict may be something jurors do ‘with a heavy heart’ but argued that the protesters ‘went too far in what they did’.
He told the jury: ‘The target was the Dockland Light Railway. It wasn’t, for instance, the headquarters of Shell or Barclays bank.
‘They targeted a public transport system used by ordinary people and which runs on electricity.
The verdict comes after four people (pictured on January 5) were cleared of criminal damage over toppling the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol and throwing it in the harbour
The bronze memorial to Edward Colston was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 7, 2020, and those responsible were acquitted on January 5
In April last year, six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors they had no defence in law
‘Using public transport is an environmentally friendly thing to do. You might think that targeting the DLR was rather incongruous with the point of their protest.’
Defence lawyer Owen Greenall countered that since Shadwell station is one stop away from Bank the protesters were ‘targeting the infrastructure that supports the financial institutions of the city’.
He argued that the protest was carried out ‘in a safe manner’ with the defendants taking measures such as targeting an open-top station so that no trains would be stuck in tunnels, and having several more people from Extinction Rebellion on the platform to ensure violence did not break out.
Mr Greenall added that disruption to passengers was ‘relatively short-lived’ with trains running again by 8am.
He summarised: ‘The issue about which they were protesting was and is so important and urgent that the degree of their disruption to users of the railway was justified.’
Three Extinction Rebellion activists are CLEARED of obstructing railway