Judge dismisses charge against Greta Thunberg over climate protest

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg was cleared of a public order offense Friday after the judge declared the condition police placed on her was "so unclear that it is unlawful." The campaigner was arrested in October 2023 while protesting outside the Energy Intelligence Forum. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Feb. 2 (UPI) -- A British judge on Friday threw out a public order charge against environmental activist Greta Thunberg citing "no evidence" she engaged in an unlawful protest in October.

District Judge John Law dismissed the case Friday, saying the condition police imposed on protesters was "so unclear that it is unlawful," and "anyone failing to comply were actually committing no offense."

Thunberg, 21, and fellow activists Christofer Kebbon, Joshua James Unwin, Jeff Rice and Peter Barker were arrested in October for allegedly violating section 14 of Britain's Public Order Act for refusing to leave the area when they were told to.

The protest took place outside of the InterContinental hotel in London, the venue for the Energy Intelligence Forum attended by fossil fuel executives and government officials.

Arresting officers argued the protesters engaged in "a deliberate attempt to stop people coming into and coming out of the hotel."

Superintendent Matt Cox, who was in charge of policing that day, told the court that delegates could not get into the hotel because of the demonstration.

But Law said he found "the main entrance was accessible (meaning) that the condition ... was unnecessary when the defendants were arrested."

The judge also said the protest was "throughout peaceful, civilized and nonviolent," and he found "no evidence of any vehicles being impeded, no evidence of any interference with emergency services, or any risk to life."

"It is quite striking to me that there were no witness statements taken from anyone in the hotel, approximately 1,000 people, or from anyone trying to get in," he said.

Thunberg's lawyer, Raj Chada, said the charges were "rightly dismissed" and the conditions imposed on the protesters were unlawful "because they disproportionately interfered with our client's right to free speech."

Constable David Lawrence said he had been called to the protest to enforce the section 14 order made by the senior officer on the scene.

He said he approached Thunberg and told her to relocate or else be arrested, but he admitted under cross-examination that he did not know the precise location of where protesters were told to relocate.

Chada argued each arresting officer failed to properly communicate the condition placed on the protest.

"We say for good measure that the condition that was in the charge is not the condition that was communicated to the officers' supervisors," he told the judge.

Another 21 people who participated in the demonstration, including supporters of Extinction Rebellion, are due to appear at later court dates.