Jury clears Extinction Rebellions activists from obstructing railway

·3-min read
Extinction Rebellion activists Father Martin Newell and Reverend Sue Parfitt (PA)
Extinction Rebellion activists Father Martin Newell and Reverend Sue Parfitt (PA)

Three Extinction Rebellion activists have been cleared over a 2019 stunt which saw them cause 77 minutes of disruption to a central London train.

Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, Father Martin Newell, 54, and former university lecturer Philip Kingston, 85, were unanimously acquitted by a jury at Inner London Crown Court of obstructing the railway following their protest at Shadwell Station on October 17 2019.

Mr Kingston super-glued his hand to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train while Rev 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 Mr Kingston said the futures of his four grandchildren also prompted him to take part in the protest.

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 10 more Extinction Rebellion activists on the platform to ensure violence did not break out.

Reverend Parfiti said she felt her action has been “vindicated” and hopes it will “inspire others” to make “sacrifices” for the climate.

“It’s wonderful that the jury saw the bigger picture, that the court has vindicated our action and we hope it in some small way inspires others to feel that there may be sacrifices to be made, perhaps particularly by people of faith,” she said after the verdict.

“We have to do whatever it takes to try our best to enable the people on this earth to change direction radically so that we live differently and we live in a better way.

“We are in an extreme and dire emergency in terms of our civilisation and our human and non-human species on the planet, and we have to have action from the Governments of the world.

“We only have power to influence this Government, our Government, and we must go on doing that in every way we can in order to get action, not words, to at least possibly slow down what is coming down for us.”

Father Newell said he was “very grateful” to the jury for “acting on their conscience”.

“The climate emergency is the biggest issue facing the human race in our time and nothing is more important with dealing with that and despite the words that many governments have said about being more urgent, they’re just not doing it.”

When asked whether he was planning to disrupt public transport again, he said: “I’m not sure that disrupting public transport is the right thing to do at this point, but in terms of would I risk going to prison? Absolutely.”

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.

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