Six Just Stop Oil protesters who ran on to the track during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last year have been convicted of causing a public nuisance.
David Baldwin, 47, Emily Brocklebank, 24, Alasdair Gibson, 22, Louis McKechnie, 22, Bethany Mogie, 40, and Joshua Smith, 29, were convicted on Friday at Northampton crown court, after the jury deliberated for eight hours and 40 minutes.
The trial heard the group posed “an immediate risk of serious harm” to Formula One drivers and race marshals when they invaded the Northamptonshire circuit on 3 July 2022.
Five of the defendants ran on to the track, while Baldwin was found in a car park with glue, cable ties and a Just Stop Oil banner, with the prosecution arguing all six were “in it together”.
Video footage played during the two-week trial showed the Formula One drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon driving past protesters sitting on the track, before they were dragged off by marshals.
“There was clearly an immediate risk of serious harm being caused. Plainly they could have been struck by fast-moving vehicles with obvious severe consequences,” said the prosecutor Simon Jones. “We say that their actions also caused risk to the drivers themselves and the marshals.”
All six defendants gave evidence denying the charges, with McKechnie saying the protest was planned “to be as safe as possible” and he had “watched every single race that’s been held at Silverstone over the last 20 years” as part of his research.
“I scoured the internet for every piece of information I could get about the track, the red flag system and also the drivers,” he said. “We picked a part of the track which would give the cars plenty of time to pass where we were and where the racing line was on the far side of the track.”
He said the group had carried out “meticulous” planning over two and a half months, and had planned to enter the track only when a red flag was raised. “We used that understanding to plan it [the protest] to be as safe as possible,” he said.
They ran on to the Wellington Straight after a multi-car crash on the first lap led to a red flag being raised, meaning drivers must significantly reduce their speed and return to the pit lane. “I knew I was safe and secure where I was on the track. I understood that where I was would be perfectly fine,” said McKechnie. “Those drivers are the best drivers in the world. They would not even have flinched at something like this.”
He said the group wanted an end to new oil and gas licences and decided to take action as they “saw the politicians ignoring the scientists”. He said that historically direct action worked, citing as examples the suffragettes and Mahatma Gandhi. “We are using their tactics because nothing else works,” he said.
In his evidence, Baldwin said he believed the circumstances were controlled and safe, claiming that two highly skilled drivers had passed the protesters with no issues.
The jury reached a unanimous verdict on five of the defendants, with Baldwin found guilty by majority. The defendants will be sentenced at Northampton crown court on 31 March, with Mr Justice Garnham saying they could face imprisonment.