Climate activists could face jail over City of London protest

<span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

A judge has told four climate activists they could face a jail sentence after being found guilty of causing a public nuisance during an Insulate Britain protest.

Judge Silas Reid spoke after a jury convicted the environmental protesters following a five-day trial at Inner London crown court.

Mark Coleman, a retired vicar; Daphne Jackson, an osteopath; Stephanie Aylett, a social justice campaigner; and Beatrice Pooley, a teacher, were found guilty of public nuisance for an action they took in the City of London in October 2021, the court heard. Coleman, the former vicar of Rochdale, glued himself to the road as part of the protest.

The court heard the group sat on the road at Bishopsgate for two hours before they were removed by police, and traffic began to flow again. It took another hour to completely open the road junctions because teams of experts had to clear up solvents which had been used to unglue some of the protesters from the roadway.

The judge told the jury: “This is not a trial about climate change, or fuel poverty, or what you think of any organisation and whether they should be applauded or condemned.

“It is about public nuisance and what happened on 25 October 2021. Public nuisance is committed if an act is done which is not warranted by law and has the effect of endangering life, health and property, or the comfort and health of the public or obstructing the public in the exercise or enjoyment of rights.

“Examples could be someone causing the cancellation of a Premier League football match, or people having an unlicensed acid party, or someone calling in a bomb hoax to a railway station.

“It is not a reasonable excuse to do an act which amounts to public nuisance for the purposes of protest.”

Public nuisance, he said, was committed when an act significantly obstructed a substantial section of the public.

The four defendants all denied causing a public nuisance when they sat down on Bishopsgate in the City of London and stopped traffic on 25 October 2021.

David Matthew, prosecuting, said 255 buses had to be diverted as a result of the action. He said the action involved the group sitting down in the road. It started shortly after 8am, right at the start of the rush hour, he told the jury. “The roads were cleared at 10.10am, some two hours after the initial block,” said Matthews.

Judge Reid adjourned sentencing until 24 March. He told the defendants a term of imprisonment was one of the options open to him.