Nine Insulate Britain activists are jailed at the High Court

Insulate Britain activists are all JAILED: Judge sends eight eco-warriors to prison for four months for breaking injunction… and locks up ninth for six months after he defiantly told court: ‘jail me or I’ll block motorway AGAIN’

Nine Insulate Britain eco zealots were today jailed at the High Court after admitting breaching an injunction designed to prevent the group’s road blockades on the M25 which caused two months of misery for motorists.

Two of the activists were jailed for three months, a further six were imprisoned for four months and the ninth – Ben Taylor, 27 – received six months after telling the judge he would immediately block the motorway again. 

Ben Buse, 36, Ana Heyatawin, 58, Louis McKechnie, 20, Roman Paluch-Machnik, 28, Oliver Rock, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, James Thomas, 47, and Mr Taylor all said they stood by their actions before sentencing.

The group and its supporters chanted ‘We are unstoppable, another world is possible’ as they were led to the cells through the dock by security officers at the court in London. Heyatawin and McKechnie were both jailed for three months while Buse, Paluch-Machnik, Rock, Smart, Speers and Thomas all received four-month sentences. 

Insulate Britain began a wave of protests on September 13, demanding that the Government makes plans to insulate the UK’s homes. They blocked roads around London as well as in Birmingham, Manchester and Dover.

The demonstrations have seen the campaigners glue themselves to the road before being removed by police. At least 161 activists have been involved on 19 days of protests so far and there have been at least 860 arrests.

It comes after Taylor told the court yesterday that if he was not in jail he would ‘go and block the motorway at the earliest opportunity and will continue to do so until the Government makes a meaningful statement and acts on it’.

Taylor’s submissions were described today by Dame Victoria Sharp as ‘inflammatory’ and a ‘call to arms’, and he was therefore given a longer sentence of six months ‘to deter (him) from committing further breaches’.

The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Chamberlain, said there was no alternative to jail sentences given the group’s actions were so serious and they had made it clear they intended to further flout court orders. She said: ‘The defendants, or some of them, seem to want to be martyrs for their cause and the media campaign surrounding this hearing appears designed to suggest this. We, however, have to act dispassionately and proportionately.’ 

Raj Chada, solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen law firm which supported the protesters, said: ‘With these prison terms, the long and honourable tradition of civil disobedience is under attack again. Rather than leaving courts to imprison those that raise the alarm, it should be the Government that acts to protect us against the climate crisis.’

Six of the nine Insulate Britain activists arrive at the High Court in London for sentencing this morning

Nine Insulate Britain eco zealots were today jailed at the High Court after admitting breaching an injunction on protesting

Insulate Britain activist Ben Taylor (left) arrives at the High Court in London for sentencing this morning

Insulate Britain activist Emma Smart (left) waves as she arrives at the High Court in London for sentencing this morning

Insulate Britain activist Tim Speers receives a hug as he arrives at the High Court for sentencing this morning

Labour MP John McDonnell (left) talks with Insulate Britain activist Oliver Rock (right) at the High Court in London today

Insulate Britain activist Ana Heyatawin arrives at the High Court in London today for sentencing this morning 

Insulate Britain activist Roman Paluch (right) walks into the High Court in London for sentencing today

Insulate Britain said the protesters were expected to serve at least half of their sentence. They had been facing a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine for contempt of court. 

An Insulate Britain spokesman said today: ‘This morning our Insulate Britain supporters have been sentenced. We are being failed and betrayed by our government. Our nine chose not to standby and be complicit in genocide.’ 

Jail sentences given to the Insulate Britain nine

  • Ana Heyatawin, 58 – three months
  • Ben Taylor, 27 – four months
  • James Thomas, 47 – four months
  • Benjamin Buse, 36 – four months
  • Emma Smart, 44 – four months
  • Louis McKechnie, 20 – four months
  • Oliver Rock, 41 – four months
  • Roman Paluch-Machnik, 28 – four months
  • Tim Speers, 36 – four months

During yesterday’s hearing, Taylor said: ‘If you somehow manage to stop all non-violent protests, then things will only turn violent.’ And Smart told the court she was there to ‘ensure future survival’.

She said: ‘I am doing everything I can to protect the most vulnerable people in society. We are all vulnerable in a climate crisis. No-one is immune and no-one is safe.’

She compared watching the climate crisis to seeing a child trapped in a burning house, and added: ‘I cannot stand by and watch. I would run to them.’

Speers described the country’s democracy as ‘steeped in lies’ and said ‘good people have a duty to breach bad laws’.

He said: ‘In this world, those trying to avert catastrophe are vilified. On a tradition of non-violent protest, in response, the Government said they will ‘do everything to we can to stop them.’ 

‘That was from Grant Shapps, who had a second job under another name.’

Insulate Britain has released photographs of some of the faces among its 32 activists who face up to two years in prison for contempt of court. They are (left to right, first row): Ruth Jarman, Dr Diana Warner, Rowan Tilly, Jess Causby, Steve Gower, Liam Norton, Greg Frey, Reverend Sue Parfitt, (second row) Mark Latimer, Dr Ben Buse, Gabby Ditton, Arne Springorum, Tony Hill, Theresa Norton, Stephanie, Emma Smart (third row) Emily Brockelbank, Biff Whipster, Amy Pritchard, Paul Sheeky, Louis McKechnie (bottom row) Roman Paulch, Ben Taylor, Ana Heyatawin, David, Oliver Rock, Tracey Mallaghan and Tim Speers

Rock invited the court to observe a minute’s silence ‘to imagine what the climate crisis means for the future’.

What is contempt of court and could the nine have been jailed for longer? 

‘Contempt of court’ is an offence that normally happens when someone risks unfairly influencing a court case, which may stop somebody from getting a fair trial.

It can include taking photos or shouting out in court, refusing to answer questions as a witness or publicly commenting on a court case such as on social media.

Another form it takes is disobeying or ignoring a court order, which is what the Insulate Britain activists have done by breaking an injunction on their M25 protests.

Those who breach the injunctions were found in contempt of court and could have faced a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine. In the end, they were jailed for between three and six months. 

The High Court has so far issued five injunctions to prevent protesters from blocking roads – four to National Highways and one to Transport for London (TfL).

The hearings did not taking place in a criminal court because none of the protesters have been charged with a criminal offence by police. This is despite at least 161 activists having been involved in the demonstrations over the two months, resulting in at least 860 arrests.

The protesters were instead facing contempt of court proceedings for breaching a High Court injunction, which is a civil matter but can still result in a jail term.

He said: ‘I’m proud of our actions and I stand by what we have done, we have not done this for personal gain. I take responsibility for my actions and I did that in an attempt to mitigate the suffering of people in this country who cannot afford to adequately heat their homes.’

The only defendant to have a lawyer was Dr Ben Buse, a Bristol University researcher. Owen Greenhall told the court Dr Buse was active in his local church and a highly regarded member of the community.

Myriam Stacey QC, representing National Highways, told the court the message that the defendants are ‘proud of their conduct’ and ‘will continue to defy the injunction order made’ is ‘loud and clear’.

She added: ‘No apology has been made in relation to the breach of the order.’

Ms Stacey said the group had emailed National Highways in September saying the protests would continue ‘unless the Government make a meaningful statement that they will start the process of decarbonising homes in Britain’. 

Ms Stacey said further committal proceedings will be issued against other Insulate Britain protesters by the end of the week, relating to protests on October 27.

She also said evidence is being gathered to bring proceedings in relation to protests on October 29 and November 2. All nine defendants were sentenced by Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Chamberlain.

An emotional Mr Rock told LBC radio yesterday: ‘I feel terrified – I’m c***ping myself this morning, and I feel like crying. I’ve got all these emotions coming out of me. It seems ridiculous that we’re in this situation.

‘What we’re asking the Government to do is just an extremely practical no-brainer thing that they should be doing, and they’re choosing instead to potentially lock us up, fine us, seize our assets.

‘I’m expecting that we might get sentenced maybe today, probably tomorrow. We’ve been told that quite probably we’ll get custodial sentences, so there’s a high likelihood that by this evening I’ll be in a prison cell somewhere.’ 

The Government plans to introduce new measures to clamp down on protests, including allowing police to stop and search people where there is a reasonable suspicion they are carrying items intended to cause disturbance, such as glue.

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