Five climate change protesters who blocked entry to the country’s largest oil terminal and “stretched” the resources of police dealing with the Queen’s funeral have walked free from court.
Around 50 Just Stop Oil campaigners were arrested, after sitting across the main entrance of the Kingsbury Oil Terminal in Warwickshire on September 14.
A High Court injunction handed down in April, after an application by North Warwickshire Borough Council, had barred such actions.
At a civil hearing at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Emma Kelly heard how protesters stopped oil tankers from coming and going for four and a half hours, before police began making arrests.
She heard how Jerard Latimer, George Oakenfold, Anthony Whitehouse, Chloe Naldrett and Darcy Mitchell, who all admitted breaching the injunction, were among a group which also stopped a terminal worker leaving the site to get to a medical appointment.
Opening the case for contempt of court against the five protesters, barrister Jonathan Manning, for the council, said the injunction’s purpose was “not in any way to prohibit lawful protest outside the terminal, but simply to prohibit dangerous activities that some protesters have been engaging in”.
He listed examples of such activities as having mobile phones near “to the terminals where there’s a high risk of explosion” and “tunnelling under roads”.
Mr Manning also said: “Many of the police officers from Warwickshire Police were being used to police the period of national mourning and funeral arrangements for the Queen.
“They had to be brought back from that in order to provide the numbers needed to safely arrest these protesters.”
Mr Manning said officers were also drawn in under existing “mutual assistance” agreements, from neighbouring forces, adding the “impact on policing resources was quite significant”.
All five admitted breaching the injunction, but – representing themselves in court – made statements in mitigation.
Whitehouse, a pensioner, told the court he was demonstrating because of the “climate crisis”.
“How else can I not but protest against this dire situation?
“Even the new king has said we should be on a wartime footing in addressing the climate crisis.
“I personally have no choice but to stand up and resist against the powerful corporations driving us over a cliff edge.
“I am a pensioner and should be out there tending to my allotment.
“Instead I am being criminalised for a morally correct stand against this injustice and the damage we are inflicting on the planet and future generations.”
Mitchell, a married parent, said the Government was “pursuing the exploitation of new oil and gas reserves in the North Sea” and a policy that would “cause our societies to collapse”, adding: “I stand by my actions.”
Oakenfold, a retired 78-year-old, said: “I managed 77 years without managing involvement with police.
“I regret taking up police time and the court’s and am aware of the costs to the state … I don’t want to be in prison.
“But, with respect, it is of no consequence at all compared to the extreme danger we now find ourselves in due to rising temperatures across the world.”
Latimer said: “The effect of this injunction is to silence dissent.”
Asked about his financial means, Latimer, another pensioner, replied he had been a stay-at-home dad “during the nappy days” and relied upon his wife’s private pension.
“She is very much against me doing this,” he added, before raising a smile from the judge when he said “the less you charge me the better, your honour”.
Naldrett, a 42-year-old theatre producer, mother-of-two and Cambridge University graduate, said: “I have a strong sense of duty as a citizen, a professional and as a parent.
“I pay my taxes. This is not where I expected to find myself.
“I have no immediate pretension to break the injunction again, but believe it a proportionate response to the climate emergency.”
Judge Kelly, sentencing, said: “Your actions caused significant harm to policing in Warwickshire when resources were already stretched to capacity by the Queen’s death.
“Simply because of the sheer number of you who had chosen to to gather in one place, it created a risk of clearly significant harm should police be needed elsewhere.”
The judge jailed each of the protesters for 23 days, but suspended the terms for two years, because it was their “first breach”.
She also took account of the fact “prior to this event, you have lived entirely law-abiding and worthwhile lives, making significant contributions to society”.