Judge says Insulate Britain demonstrators 'want to be martyrs' as jailed protesters chant in court

·Freelance Writer
·4 min read
Insulate Britain activists (back row left to right) Tim Speers, Roman Paluch, Emma Smart, Ben Taylor, James Thomas, (front row left to right) Louis McKechnie, Ana Heyatawin and Oliver Roc, who along with Dr Ben Buse have been jailed. (PA)
Insulate Britain activists (back row left to right) Tim Speers, Roman Paluch, Emma Smart, Ben Taylor, James Thomas, (front row left to right) Louis McKechnie, Ana Heyatawin and Oliver Roc, who along with Dr Ben Buse have been jailed. (PA)

Nine Insulate Britain activists were led away chanting as they were jailed for breaching High Court injunctions designed to prevent disruptive protests.

As she handed the group custodial sentences, the judge told the court that the demonstrators "wanted to be martyrs for their cause". 

The protest group began a wave of protests in September, blocking the M25, other roads in London including around Parliament, roads in Birmingham and Manchester, and around the Port of Dover in Kent.

On Wednesday, nine protesters were jailed at the High Court in London after they admitted breaching the injunction by taking part in a blockade at junction 25 of the M25 on 8 October.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/11/16: Protesters hold an 'Insulate Britain' banner during the demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice. 
Nine activists are facing prison for breaking an injunction during the recent Insulate Britain protests.  The protesters are demanding that the government insulates all social housing by 2025, and takes responsibility for ensuring that all homes in the UK are more energy-efficient by 2030, as part of wider climate change and decarbonization targets. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Protesters hold an 'Insulate Britain' banner during the demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice. (Getty)

Ana Heyatawin, 58, and Louis McKechnie, 20, were jailed for three months, while Ben Buse, 36, Roman Paluch-Machnik, 28, Oliver Rock, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, and James Thomas, 47, all received four-month sentences.

Ben Taylor, 37, was handed six months, after judge Dame Victoria Sharp ruled that his submission – saying that he would protest again if not jailed – was “inflammatory” and a “call to arms”.

She told Taylor the longer sentence was “to deter (him) from committing further breaches”.

The judge 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.”

Activists have branded the sentences “clearly disproportionate”.

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.

An Insulate Britain activist addressing the media said Ms Smart, one of the nine, had announced her intention to go on hunger strike.

Watch: Who are 'Insulate Britain'?

LBC journalist Rachael Venables, who was in court for the sentencing, said the group then stopped chanting when told to by the judge.

Insulate Britain says it intends to continue with the protests, which have sparked anger among motorists and others affected by the blockades, until the government agrees to insulate homes.

A statement from the nine activists jailed was read by an Insulate Britain supporter outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the ruling.

It read: “By imprisoning us, the government shows its cowardice. They would rather lock up pensioners than insulate their homes.”

The statement, that compared Insulate Britain to Martin Luther King and the suffragettes, warned the public that “no-one is coming to save you” and that “breaking the law” was needed.

It added: “You have a choice. To act, to come and join us help change the tide of history, or to be a bystander and be complicit in enabling genocide.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/11/16: Protesters hold a banner which says 'Risking Freedom To Save Us' during the demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice. 
Nine activists are facing prison for breaking an injunction during the recent Insulate Britain protests.  The protesters are demanding that the government insulates all social housing by 2025, and takes responsibility for ensuring that all homes in the UK are more energy-efficient by 2030, as part of wider climate change and decarbonization targets. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Protesters hold a banner which says 'Risking freedom to save us' during the demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice. (Getty)
Insulate Britain climate activists take part in a Rise and Rebel march organised by Extinction Rebellion to coincide with the end of, and anticipated failure of, the COP26 climate summit on 13th November 2021 in London, United Kingdom. Activists were intending to send a message to the UK government that protests to ensure urgent action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency will continue. The march briefly disrupted the Lord Mayor's Show at two or more locations. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Insulate Britain climate activists take part in a Rise and Rebel march organised by Extinction Rebellion to coincide with the end of the COP26 climate summit this week. (Getty)

Liberty director Gracie Bradley described today’s sentences as disproportionate, saying: “For years, injunctions have been used by the powerful to stifle dissent and restrict protest rights, while demonstrators have been demonised.

“The right to protest protects all of us and is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.”

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner said the case was the first he knew of where non-violent protesters have been jailed for breaching this type of injunction, calling the decision a "huge moment".

The High Court has so far issued five injunctions to prevent protesters from blocking roads.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/11/04: Police officers arrest a protester during the demonstration in Parliament Square.
Insulate Britain protesters glued themselves to the road and blocked Parliament Square. The protesters are demanding that the government insulates all social housing by 2025, and takes responsibility for ensuring that all homes in the UK are more energy efficient by 2030, as part of wider climate change and decarbonization targets. (Photo by Thomas Krych/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Police officers arrest a protester during an Insulate Britain demonstration in Parliament Square. (Getty)
Metropolitan Police officers monitor Insulate Britain climate activists who had previously blocked a M25 slip road at Junction 14 close to Heathrow airport as part of a campaign intended to push the UK government to make significant legislative change to start lowering emissions on 27th September 2021 in Colnbrook, United Kingdom. The activists are demanding that the government immediately promises both to fully fund and ensure the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025 and to produce within four months a legally binding national plan to fully fund and ensure the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Metropolitan Police officers monitor Insulate Britain climate activists who had blocked an M25 slip road in September. (Getty)

Those who breach the injunctions could be found in contempt of court and face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine.

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

So far, 161 people have been involved in the roadblock campaign and there have been more than 800 arrests.

Watch: Police arrest Insulate Britain protesters in Dartford

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