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Extinction Rebellion activists who glued themselves to trains spared jail as judge notes ‘noble’ cause

‘Your stated cause is to effect change in global attitudes to save the lives of most, if not all, of the human race,’ says judge in sentencing remarks

Jane Dalton
Thursday 19 December 2019 22:43 GMT
Police remove a climate change protester who had glued himself to the roof of a train
Police remove a climate change protester who had glued himself to the roof of a train (AFP/Getty Images)

A group of climate protesters who glued themselves to a train have been spared jail by a judge who acknowledged their “noble” intentions were to “protect all human life”.

But the three Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists who disrupted rush-hour services at a busy London station have been warned they could be imprisoned if they break the law again.

Cathy Eastburn, 52, Mark Ovland, 36, and Luke Watson, 30, were each given a 12-month conditional discharge for halting trains at Canary Wharf in east London in April.

Their action was part of a series of protests carried out across the capital by the XR group, which is calling for urgent action to address the climate crisis.

The trio had denied obstructing an engine or a carriage using a railway, claiming the stunt was justified because of the threat of climate change.

Watson and Eastburn both climbed on top of a carriage and glued themselves to the roof, while Ovland glued his hands to the side.

Sentencing them at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Silas Reid warned against protesting that would amount to their committing further criminal offences.

“Each of you planned these offences and were prepared to go to prison for committing them,” he said.

“You each are clear that you did as you did to raise the alarm as to the dire situation you each believe the earth faces in respect of climate change.

“Your stated cause is to effect change in global attitudes to save the lives of most, if not all, of the human race.

“A cause intended to protect all human life is obviously a noble one.”

The trio maintained during the trial that their actions were not criminal, but Mr Reid said: “You broke the law, and that means you are criminals.

“What’s clear is that the rule of law is an essential part of society. It protects us all from anarchy and chaos.”

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The sentence means they could face prison if they commit another offence in the next 12 months.

The judge said he was concerned that Eastburn and Ovland in particular may decide to break the law again in future, as the court heard that both had been involved in other XR action.

Mr Reid acknowledged the time each had already spent in custody on remand, which for Watson, of Manuden, Essex, was 13 days, for Eastburn, of Lambeth, south London, was eight days, and for Ovland, of Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, was 53 days.

A jury unanimously found the defendants guilty on Wednesday, but the foreman added it was “with regret”.

Mother-of-two Eastburn was ordered to pay £1,166 in costs, while philosophy student Watson and Ovland were each ordered to pay £300.

Following the sentencing, musician Eastburn said: “I don’t feel any remorse or regret for what I did, it was completely necessary to do that at that time.

“It had maximum impact, in terms of really putting the issue on to the front pages, and in combination with things that other people did, people like David Attenborough, the school strikes and other action, rocketed the whole issue into public consciousness.

“So I think it was an effective and important thing that I was able to do.”

Ovland, who has given up his job to protest over climate change, said: “Although we don’t regret or feel any remorse for the action, we’re still, as with every action, deeply apologetic to anyone affected.

“If there’s any anger directed at us, maybe that should be directed to the inaction of the government.”

During the trial, the trio said the disruption was kept to a minimum by targeting a station with multiple platforms so trains could be diverted through another platform.

But their actions were condemned at the time by angry commuters.

Additional reporting by PA

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