Nine Insulate Britain eco zealots were today jailed at the High Court after admitting breaching an injunction designed to prevent the group’s road blockades on the M25 which caused two months of misery for motorists.
Two activists were jailed for three months, a further six were imprisoned for four months and the ninth, Ben Taylor, 27, received six months after telling the judge he would immediately block the motorway again.
Ben Buse, 36, Ana Heyatawin, 58, Louis McKechnie, 20, Roman Paluch, 28, Oliver Roc, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, James Thomas, 47, and Mr Taylor all said they stood by their actions before they were sentenced.
Insulate Britain began a wave of protests in September, demanding the Government makes plans to insulate Britain’s homes. They blocked roads around London as well as in Birmingham, Manchester and Dover.
The demonstrations saw activists glue themselves to the road before they were removed by police. At least 161 activists have been involved on 19 days of protests so far and there have been at least 860 arrests.
It comes after Taylor told the court yesterday that if he is not in prison he will ‘go and block the motorway at the earliest opportunity and will continue to do so until the Government makes a meaningful statement and acts on it’.
Six of the nine Insulate Britain activists arrive at the High Court in London for sentencing this morning
Insulate Britain activist Ben Taylor (left) arrives at the High Court in London for sentencing this morning
Insulate Britain activist Emma Smart (left) waves as she arrives at the High Court in London for sentencing this morning
Insulate Britain activist Tim Speers receives a hug as he arrives at the High Court for sentencing this morning
Insulate Britain said the protesters were expected to serve at least half of their sentence. They had been facing a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine for contempt of court.
An Insulate Britain spokesman said today: ‘This morning our Insulate Britain supporters have been sentenced. We are being failed and betrayed by our government. Our nine chose not to standby and be complicit in genocide.’
What is contempt of court and could the nine have been jailed for longer?
‘Contempt of court’ is an offence that normally happens when someone risks unfairly influencing a court case, which may stop somebody from getting a fair trial.
It can include taking photos or shouting out in court, refusing to answer questions as a witness or publicly commenting on a court case such as on social media.
Another form it takes is disobeying or ignoring a court order, which is what the Insulate Britain activists have done by breaking an injunction on their M25 protests.
Those who breach the injunctions were found in contempt of court and could have faced a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine. In the end, they were jailed for between three and six months.
The High Court has so far issued five injunctions to prevent protesters from blocking roads – four to National Highways and one to Transport for London (TfL).
The hearings did not taking place in a criminal court because none of the protesters have been charged with a criminal offence by police. This is despite at least 161 activists having been involved in the demonstrations over the two months, resulting in at least 860 arrests.
The protesters were instead facing contempt of court proceedings for breaching a High Court injunction, which is a civil matter but can still result in a jail term.
During yesterday’s hearing, Taylor said: ‘If you somehow manage to stop all non-violent protests, then things will only turn violent.’ And Smart told the court she was there to ‘ensure future survival’.
She said: ‘I am doing everything I can to protect the most vulnerable people in society. We are all vulnerable in a climate crisis. No-one is immune and no-one is safe.’
She compared watching the climate crisis to seeing a child trapped in a burning house, and added: ‘I cannot stand by and watch. I would run to them.’
Speers described the country’s democracy as ‘steeped in lies’ and said ‘good people have a duty to breach bad laws’.
He said: ‘In this world, those trying to avert catastrophe are vilified. On a tradition of non-violent protest, in response, the Government said they will ‘do everything to we can to stop them.’
‘That was from Grant Shapps, who had a second job under another name.’
Roc invited the court to observe a minute’s silence ‘to imagine what the climate crisis means for the future’.
He said: ‘I’m proud of our actions and I stand by what we have done, we have not done this for personal gain. I take responsibility for my actions and I did that in an attempt to mitigate the suffering of people in this country who cannot afford to adequately heat their homes.’
Myriam Stacey QC, representing National Highways, told the court the message that the defendants are ‘proud of their conduct’ and ‘will continue to defy the injunction order made’ is ‘loud and clear’.
She added: ‘No apology has been made in relation to the breach of the order.’
Ms Stacey said the group had emailed National Highways in September saying the protests would continue ‘unless the Government make a meaningful statement that they will start the process of decarbonising homes in Britain’.
Ms Stacey said further committal proceedings will be issued against other Insulate Britain protesters by the end of the week, relating to protests on October 27.
Insulate Britain activist Ana Heyatawin arrives at the High Court in London today for sentencing this morning
Insulate Britain activist Roman Paluch (right) walks into the High Court in London for sentencing today
Labour MP John McDonnell (left) talks with Insulate Britain activist Oliver Roc (right) at the High Court in London today
She also said evidence is being gathered to bring proceedings in relation to protests on October 29 and November 2. All nine defendants were sentenced by Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Chamberlain.
The Government plans to introduce new measures to clamp down on protests, including allowing police to stop and search people where there is a reasonable suspicion they are carrying items intended to cause disturbance, such as glue.