Ex-Paralympic athlete jailed after airliner climate protest awaits appeal ruling

·2-min read
Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown who was given a 12-month jail sentence after supergluing himself to the roof of a British Airways plane at a London City Airport in a bid to draw attention to the climate crisis (Helena Smith/Extinction Rebellion/PA) (PA Wire)
Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown who was given a 12-month jail sentence after supergluing himself to the roof of a British Airways plane at a London City Airport in a bid to draw attention to the climate crisis (Helena Smith/Extinction Rebellion/PA) (PA Wire)

A former Paralympic athlete given a 12-month jail sentence 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 is waiting for an appeal ruling.

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 at a trial.

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.

Three appeal judges, Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Goss, are due to deliver a ruling on Friday.

They said Brown, who is in his late 50s, could be released on bail, pending the delivery of their ruling, but imposed a bail condition which bars him from entering any airport where commercial flights operate.

Protesters blocking the road outside City Airport during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Archive)
Protesters blocking the road outside City Airport during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Archive)

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

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.

Three appeal judges, Lord Burnett – the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Goss, said they would deliver a ruling on the appeal on a date to be fixed.

Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown on top of a plane on the morning of October 10 2019 during a protest against flying at London City Airport (Extinction Rebellion/PA) (PA Media)
Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown on top of a plane on the morning of October 10 2019 during a protest against flying at London City Airport (Extinction Rebellion/PA) (PA Media)

Judge Gregory Perrins, who had jailed Brown, said when passing sentence 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 on to 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 livestreamed 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.

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