Judge sentencing Insulate Britain protesters ‘inspired’ into climate action

Insulate Britain protesters were praised by a judge for their commitment to greener living as 12 were fined over a demonstration which disrupted the journeys of an estimated 18,000 drivers on the M25.

The eco group blocked traffic, including an ambulance carrying a patient, by sitting across Junction 3, a busy interchange on the motorway, on September 29.

Some demonstrators glued themselves to the tarmac while one, Biff Whipster, stuck himself to a police car.

Nine of the activists admitted charges in relation to the protest either by post or in person at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

Mary Adams, 68, Ian Bates, 63, Karen Matthews, 60, Margurite Doubleday, 67, Bethany Mogie, 39, and Xavier Gonzalez-Trimmer, 21, and Lucy Crawford, 52, each pleaded guilty to wilful obstruction of free passage of the highway.

Whipster, a 54-year-old from Canterbury, admitted criminal damage by leaving a “hard, crusty layer of glue” on the window of a police vehicle during the demonstration.

Bates, Matthews and Whipster were told by District Judge Stephen Leake they had “inspired” him after making impassioned speeches about their concerns over the climate while representing themselves in court.

But the judge added that his role was to “apply the law” and said their actions had caused “significant disruption” to the motorway.

“I have heard your voices.

“They have inspired me and personally I intend to do what I can to reduce my own impact on the planet, so to that extent your voices are certainly heard,” the judge said.

“These are difficult cases for us judges because we have to apply the law and that is what we have sworn our judicial oaths to do.”

The court heard how a number of protesters had been spotted before the chaos unfurled “hiding in woodland” near the junction by police officers.

Prosecutor Kat Shields said two were asked whether they were there to demonstrate to which they replied: “No, we are just nature lovers.”

But the group then ran into the middle of the road and spread out across two areas of the junction, bringing traffic to a standstill, the court heard.

An ambulance carrying a patient who “urgently needed to be transported” was delayed when Adams refused to move out of its path, with officers having to “drag” her out of the way, the prosecutor said.

The cost to the economy caused by the disruption was about £4,603, with an estimated 18,000 vehicles affected across the wider area, according to evidence from National Highways.

Protesters attending court, all of whom sat in the public gallery throughout the hearing, claimed they had exhausted all other means of campaigning over the climate crisis and resorted to “non-violent protest” to highlight their cause.

Tissues were passed around by a member of court staff as several broke down in tears and held their faces in their hands while fellow activists voiced their fears over a “desperate” environmental situation.

“I’m living in an insane world,” Bates said.

The words ‘Insulate Britain’ spray-painted on Crawley Magistrates’ court(Luke O’Reilly/PA)

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