Climate activist cleared over Sir David Attenborough incident

A climate activist who repeatedly tried to speak to Sir David Attenborough in an upmarket seaside restaurant has been cleared of failing to comply with a dispersal order.

Poole Magistrates’ Court was shown body-worn police camera footage of how Emma Smart, 45, refused to leave the shop under the Catch at the Old Fishmarket restaurant in Weymouth, Dorset, in November last year.

A district judge watched on Friday as the footage showed Miss Smart demanding to speak to the veteran broadcaster, who was eating upstairs with his production team.

After asking the defendant several times to leave and discussing the situation with her, two police officers eventually dragged the unco-operative Miss Smart from the premises with the help of the restaurant owner.

Sir David Attenborough comments
Sir David Attenborough was eating in the restaurant, the trial heard (Victoria Jones/PA)

Outside, the footage showed Miss Smart continuing to shout up at the restaurant from the pavement until the officers issued her with a Section 35 dispersal order.

Moments later, the officers arrested the defendant for failing to comply with the order and leave the area.

On Friday, after a one-day trial, Deputy District Judge Clare Boichot found Miss Smart not guilty.

The deputy district judge said that, given what she had seen of how the defendant was acting on the street, “I’m not satisfied this was a reasonable amount of time to comply with the notice”.

She said the whole incident lasted “no more than 18 minutes” and the defendant was given “just seconds” to comply with the notice before she was arrested.

In the footage shown to the court, Miss Smart is heard to shout: “David Attenborough, my name is Emma Smart. I’m a scientist. I’m a biologist.

“Please come and speak with me. Just five minutes.”

She continues: “David, I wrote to you from prison. There are 35 climate activists in prison right now. Please stand up for us. Please support us.”

As she continues to shout up at the building, the defendant says: “I’ve looked up to you and listened to you my entire life.

“Please listen to me now.”

And she says: “Our nature is in crisis. We are in danger of losing everything. They are coming to arrest me. You can stop that.”

Giving evidence, Miss Smart said: “It was an opportunity I was unlikely to ever get again and I took that opportunity to go and speak to him.”

She told the court that if the production team had told her Sir David did not want to talk, she would have left.

Miss Smart said: “I don’t harass elderly people.”

She added: “I have never displayed any violence or non-peaceful behaviour in my actions as an environmental campaigner or biologist or scientist ever.”

Miss Smart said the police response to her actions in the shop and on the pavement was “disproportionate” and violated her right to protest.

She said the restaurant owner told her the broadcaster did not even know she was there.

Miss Smart, from Weymouth, was refused permission to call Sir David as a witness at a previous hearing.

She was jailed for four months in November 2021 after an Insulate Britain climate protest.

Louisa Hillwood, spokeswoman for Animal Rebellion, the protest group which has supported Miss Smart, said: “We are delighted to see the judiciary side with ordinary people taking a stand against the cost-of-living, climate, and ecological crises.

“Emma Smart bravely took action last November when she attempted to speak to Sir David Attenborough at the Catch and raise the conversation on the need for a plant-based food system.

“We will continue to have this incredibly important conversation about the need to completely rethink the way we produce food, in a way that benefits us all.”