Extinction Rebellion activists cleared over London rush hour disruption

Jury decision over 2019 action is the latest acquittal involving a high-profile protest

Three activists who targeted London’s public transport network to raise the alarm about the escalating climate crisis have been acquitted by a jury.

The three Extinction Rebellion campaigners disrupted rush hour services for more than an hour in east London in 2019, with two of them climbing on top of the train and a third gluing himself to one of the carriages.

On Friday at the Inner London crown court a jury found them not guilty of of obstructing the railway at Shadwell station.

During the trail the jury were presented with a set of facts – accepted by both the prosecution and defence – about the scale and severity of the climate crisis.

Zoë Blackler from Extinction Rebellion said the verdict showed that when a jury hears “the truth … with the depth and seriousness they won’t get from the government or the media, they understand the urgent need to act.”

The three defendants – the Rev Sue Parfitt, 79, Father Martin Newell, 54, and former university lecturer Philip Kingston, 85 – said they were strongly motivated by their Christian faith – with Kingston adding the futures of his four grandchildren also prompted him to take part in the protest.

Blackler said: “The real criminals here aren’t three committed Christians risking their liberty to sound the alarm on a threat of existential proportions, but a government failing to do what’s necessary to safeguard the future of the human race.”

The action led to delays for thousands of people with 15 trains affected. The activists said they had planned the demonstration to ensure there was no risk to public safety by targeting a station above ground and having 10 more Extinction Rebellion activists on the platform to ensure violence did not break out.

The verdict is the latest in which juries have acquitted protesters. Earlier this month four people were cleared of criminal damage over toppling the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and throwing it in the harbour.

In December six Extinction Rebellion activists, whose protest halted transport links serving London’s financial district, were also acquitted by a jury. And in April last year, six others were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors they had no defence in law.

Mike Schwarz, solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen who represented the defendants, said: “There is mounting evidence from the courts and in particular from juries that the public is taking the climate crisis and the increasingly urgent need to focus on it far more seriously than government and business. This verdict is part of this escalating pattern.”


Matthew Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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