A senior Metropolitan Police officer has claimed the force had “no other option” but to remove Extinction Rebellion activists from Oxford Circus as two demonstrators go on trial for their alleged role in the mass protests.
Joseph Hesmondhalgh and Kathryn Shipp stood in the dock at Hendon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday following a series of protests in April of this year that bought parts of London to a standstill.
Hesmondhalgh, 20, of Oakfield Avenue, Glasgow, and 55-year-old Shipp, of Longton Avenue, Lewisham, both deny breaching a notice under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 on April 16 and April 18.
Giving evidence to the court, Superintendent Duncan McMillan, the bronze commander in charge of operational policing during the protests, said moving demonstrators was Scotland Yard’s best option.
A Section 14 order was issued by police on April 16, which said protesters must move from Oxford Circus in central London to a permitted demonstration area at Marble Arch.
Defending Shipp, Jacob Bindman asked Mr McMillan why activists were moved and not instead restricted to an area of Oxford Circus.
“I don’t believe they would have listened to me and my officers and, actually, I was right,” he told the court.
“They had a very large boat, sound systems, tents, which were stopping the community going about their business.
“I did consider other conditions but that seemed the best option. They said they were going to remain there no matter what.”
He added: “I will always try and balance the rights of the protesters and communities and look for the least impactive option.”
Mr Bindman claimed that a log kept by the Scotland Yard officer only recorded “negative anecdotes” of the protests, reading a discussion in Mr McMillan’s witness statement with a woman who was prohibited from entering Topshop on Oxford Street because of protesters lying down at the entrance.
“There’s no reference where you have recorded, ‘I spoke to someone and they said this is fantastic’, or something on that rationale,” Mr Bindman said.
“You obviously had those conversations, yet in your log you have recorded the negative anecdotes.”
A number of Extinction Rebellion supporters attended the trial at Hendon Magistrates’ Court, with one offering out mints to those sat in the public gallery.
Bodyworn footage from a Scotland Yard officer who arrested Shipp was shown to the court while Aimee Emby, prosecuting, read a statement from the same officer.
“The female acknowledged that I was speaking to her but stated she was potentially listening to the music,” the statement read.
“Others were responding to her and she communicating with them, but ignoring me.”
A second clip of bodyworn footage from April 17 was shown where the teacher appeared to be shouting: “I’m defending nature.”
Pelle Hjek Moller Kirkeby, who denies breaching a Section 14 order and two charges of obstructing a constable, also attended the trial.
The 31-year-old Danish national, whose case was adjourned until Friday at City of London Magistrates’ Court, appeared to be drawing the scene of the courtroom on a notepad during the evidence.
Hesmondhalgh and Shipp were unconditionally bailed to return to the same court at 10am on Wednesday.