Climate protesters spared jail after smashing Barclays windows

Climate protesters spared jail after smashing Barclays windows

A group of climate protesters who caused £100,000 damage by smashing the front windows of Barclays bank in London have been spared jail.

Carol Wood, 54, Sophie Cowen, 32, Lucy Porter, 48, Gabriella Ditton, 29, Rosemary Webster, 64, and Zoe Cohen, 52, were convicted of criminal damage on Monday over the incident on April 7 last year.

Porter, Ditton and Webster were all on bail at the time and have been given a suspended sentence of eight months.

Wood and Cohen were given a suspended sentence of seven months and Cowen a suspended sentence of six months.

The sentences for all of the women have been suspended for two years.

More than 20 supporters whooped and clapped as Judge David Milne KC concluded the hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Friday.

In April last year, the group spread out along the front of Barclays bank in Canary Wharf, east London, before using chisels and hammers to break the large glass panels that made up the exterior of the bank.

Their actions were associated with climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion.

During their trial they argued that Barclays staff would have consented to the damage if they were fully informed about the climate crisis and said they did not mean to cause as much damage as they did.

Climate protesters court case
Supporters dressed as suffragettes filled the public gallery as the six women were given suspended sentences ( Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Owen Grenhall, defending Wood, said: “There is a difference between a protester and those who are normally before the court in other matters of criminality.

“There is evidence of some planning of the protest. Much of the planning went to aspects of safety. Their planning was to ensure the action was carried out as safe as possible.

“In terms of whether very serious damage was caused, my submission is they did not intend to cause damage at the financial levels which resulted in this case.

“Yes, they intended to break the glass, but the consistent evidence was that they were very surprised that the glass broke that much.”

He also said there was no evidence of any distress caused, adding: “The value has to be assessed in the context of the event and one cannot ignore the fact that the income and profits made by Barclays are of an order greater than… it is hard to think of a comparable institution.

“It is not the same as causing that level of damage to a private individual home.”

Cowen, representing herself, said: “Where is the law that prosecutes Barclays for their crimes? I am not questioning the jury’s decision but I do feel they were trapped into making it, trapped by a technicality of the law and the language of those in authority.”

Prosecutor Diana Wilson asked Cowen not to use the courtroom to protest and Judge David Milne told her: “This is your opportunity to tell the court about yourself. You were very eloquent in your trial but we are all bound by the law.”

Cowen replied: “If we are bound by the law then everything on Earth is going to die.”

Her co-defendant Cohen said that she took action to help prevent a climate-induced disaster that would result in “100 holocausts”.

She added: “I do not say that lightly your Honour. I say that as someone of Jewish origin on this Holocaust Memorial Day.

“I was not brought up to do any harm to anyone. I feel genuine remorse for any distress caused and for the use of public resources, but I must be true to my conscience. I do not regret my action.

“I believe that every adult alive now has the moral obligation to protect what is left of the biosphere.”

Judge Milne said: “You set about as a group breaking a series of large windows of the front of the bank. You issued fixed notices of the reasoning for so doing and sat down and waited for the police to arrive.

“The consensus of scientific opinion supports your view that the world faces great danger and urgent action is needed. However, the strength of your beliefs has led you to take the law into your own hands.

“Breaking windows is violence. Violence against property but violence nonetheless. You also spoke of the dangers of society breaking down but it is you who chose to break the law.”