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Priti Patel blasts XR activists after six protesters were cleared of damaging Shell’s London HQ despite judge saying they had ‘no defence’ in law

Priti Patel blasts XR activists after six protesters were cleared of damaging Shell’s London HQ despite judge saying they had ‘no defence’ in law

  • Priti Patel said she would not be delivering on promises if she did not crackdown
  • Home Secretary also defended controversial Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill
  • It comes after six XR protesters were cleared of damaging Shell’s London HQ
  • That’s despite a judge admitting the XR protesters had ‘no defence’ in law 

Priti Patel has today blasted Extinction Rebellion activists for using ‘dangerous tactics in the name of environmentalism’.

The Home Secretary said she would ‘not be delivering on my promise to the law-abiding majority’ if she did not crack down on the protesters.

He comments come after six Extinction Rebellion – also known as XR – protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters – despite the judge directing jurors they had ‘no defence’ in law.

The group staged ‘protest of one’ road blocks on Saturday to demonstrate against the Government’s lack of action on climate change.

Today the Home Secretary told The Sun on Sunday: ‘I would not be delivering on my promise to the law-abiding majority if I stood by as Extinction Rebellion deployed dangerous tactics in the name of environmentalism.

‘These so-called activists blocked many of us from being able to access a newspaper last year.

‘And last week they smashed up a bank’s headquarters.’

Saturday’s protests coincided with a number of demonstrations against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The Bill was drafted partly in response to previous disruptive action by XR and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The proposed legislation would give police in England and Wales more powers to impose conditions on non-violent protests.

However it has been slammed by critics as ‘too broad’ and an ‘unfair’ crackdown on the rights of protesters – with those deemed ‘too noisy’ or a ‘nuisance’ liable to face fines or jail terms.

The bill has sparked several large protests, with thousands of ‘Kill the Bill’ protesters marching through central London yesterday.

There were also protests in 40 towns and cities across the UK against the increased police powers.

However, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Patel defended the proposed new legislation, saying: ‘The powers will help the police to balance the rights of protesters to demonstrate peacefully against the rights of others to go about their daily business, and to dedicate their resources to keeping the public safe.

‘That is democracy in action.’

Her comments come as Six Extinction Rebellion protesters were last week cleared of causing £25,000 worth of criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors they had no defence in law.

Two of the group’s co-founders Simon Bramwell, 49, and Ian Bray, 53, were acquitted on Friday alongside Jane Augsburger, 55, Senan Clifford, 60, David Lambert, 62, and James ‘Sid’ Saunders, 41, after a trial at Southwark Crown Court.

The six, who represented themselves, were also cleared of individual counts of having an article with intent to destroy or damage property, while a seventh protester, Katerina Hasapopoulous, 43, earlier pleaded guilty to criminal damage.

Prosecutor Diana Wilson told jurors each of the defendants deliberately sprayed graffiti or smashed windows at the Shell building in Belvedere Road, central London, on April 15 2019.

The protest, which saw activists pour fake oil, glue themselves to windows and doors, break glass, climb onto a roof and spray graffiti, was part of wider Extinction Rebellion demonstrations across the capital.

Ms Wilson said that while some protesters stood outside the building holding banners or speaking through megaphones, ‘these defendants went further’, adding: ‘The seven involved caused significant damage.’

All those who stood trial explained they had targeted the Shell building because the oil giant was directly contributing to climate change, thereby causing serious injury and death, and argued it was a ‘necessary’ and ‘proportionate’ response to the harm being caused.

Clifford quoted Sir David Attenborough and former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his evidence.

He said: ‘I believe if I don’t do whatever I can to protect our Earth, to protect life on this Earth, to stop the death and injury that is and will be happening, I’m committing a crime, a really serious crime, and I’m willing to break a window, to paint a message on a wall, I’m willing to break the glass on that emergency button, even if some say that’s a crime.

‘Because this is a much bigger crime and I’m trying to stop that crime, I’m trying to protect life in the only way I feel I can.’

Judge Gregory Perrins directed jurors that even if they thought the protesters were ‘morally justified’ it did not provide them with a lawful excuse to commit criminal damage.

With the exception of Saunders, who claimed in his defence that he honestly believed Shell’s employees and shareholders would have consented to his criminal damage, the judge said: ‘They don’t have any defence in law for the charges they face.’

But the jury of seven women and five men took seven hours and four minutes to acquit them of both charges.

Some of the defendants waved at jurors, several of whom were visibly emotional, as they left court.

Before reaching their verdicts, the jury had asked to see a copy of the oath they took when they were sworn in.

Thanking jurors for their ‘care and attention’, the judge said: ‘This has been an unusual case.’

Augsburger, Bramwell, Clifford, Lambert and Saunders, who are all from Stroud, Gloucestershire and Bray, from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, were jubilant as they left court.

Hasapopoulous, from Stroud, will be sentenced later.


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