Just Stop Oil protesters caused “an immediate risk of serious harm” to Formula One drivers and race marshals by invading the track during last year’s British Grand Prix, prosecutors have claimed.
A jury at Northampton Crown Court was shown in-car footage of F1 stars Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon passing three men and two women who were sitting on and being dragged off Silverstone’s Wellington Straight last July.
Video recorded by Lewis Hamilton’s car passing protesters shortly before the track invasion was also shown during the Crown’s opening speech – along with video statements issued by five of six defendants who are on trial.
David Baldwin, 47, Emily Brocklebank, 24, Alasdair Gibson, 22, Louis McKechnie, 22, Bethany Mogie, 40, and 29-year-old Joshua Smith all deny causing a public nuisance at the Northamptonshire circuit in July last year.
Brocklebank, of Yeadon, Leeds; Gibson, from Aberdeen; Mogie, from St Albans; McKechnie, from Manchester; and Smith, from Lees in Oldham, went on to the race circuit during the protest.
Baldwin, of Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, was found in a car park along with glue, cable ties and a Just Stop Oil banner and is said by the Crown to have been “in it together” with his co-defendants.
Opening the prosecution case on Wednesday, prosecutor Simon Jones told the court: “This case concerns the actions of six Just Stop Oil protesters.
“The prosecution say that these defendants committed a criminal act of public nuisance.
“As events unfolded, the F1 Grand Prix had started and it was under a red flag after a serious accident had occurred at the very start.
“Each of these defendants were present at Silverstone and they were intent on causing a disruption to the race.
“It is not in dispute that five of the defendants in this case – all of them save for David Baldwin – made it on to the racetrack and they did not have permission to be there.
“There is no dispute as to that, and they sat down in front of the ongoing cars – Formula One motor racing cars.
“They will inevitably say that this was done as an act of protest and in order to bring publicity to the cause and demand they make – of no new oil and gas licences.”
Video footage from various camera angles covering Silverstone was played to the jury, as well as personal video statements from five of the defendants recorded a day before the protest, including a claim that the world is “being destroyed for the benefit of a few people”.
Before the video compilation was played to the court, Mr Jones told the jury of seven women and five men: “You will see the moment they got on the track, having initially waited for most of the vehicles to pass.
“You will then see two Formula One racing cars driving past the protesters… while five of the defendants were on the track.
“You will see marshals having to run on to the track and drag the protesters off to the side.
“The prosecution say that there was clearly an immediate risk of serious harm being caused. Plainly they could have been struck by fast-moving vehicles with obvious severe consequences.
“We say that that their actions also caused risk to the drivers themselves and the marshals.”
Concluding his opening speech, Mr Jones told the court: “The prosecution case is that there is no doubt that each defendant was involved in action which created that risk of serious harm that day.
“Putting it bluntly, we say, to sit in the face of F1 racing cars created that obvious risk… not just to the defendants themselves, but to the racing drivers and the marshals who had to deal with the situation, which, let’s be clear, they deliberately chose to create and caused.”
Among the video exhibits shown the jury on the first day of the trial was footage of a three-car collision at the first turn of the race, in which no drivers were seriously hurt.
F1’s chief legal officer, Sacha Woodward Hill, was the second witness at the hearing.
Commenting on video footage of numerous cars passing along the Wellington Straight, she said part of the front of Tsunoda’s car was missing as it passed the protesters, with loose bodywork “sparking” along the ground.
Asked by a defence barrister to comment on the frequency of “pitch invaders” at F1 races, she told the court: “Very seldom and when it does (happen) it’s a very serious matter.”
The trial continues.