Insulate Britain activists admit breaching High Court ban on road blockades

The group 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

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A group of climate change activists from Insulate Britain have admitted breaching High Court injunctions designed to prevent disruptive protests.

Insulate Britain activists began a wave of protests in September and have blocked the M25, other roads in London including around Parliament, roads in Birmingham and Manchester and the Port of Dover in Kent.

The group 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.

Nine supporters of the group are appearing at the High Court in London, where they face a possible jail term for their part in a blockade at junction 25 of the M25 on October 8.

Lawyers representing National Highways told the court on Tuesday that the nine admit the breaches, although two of them have asked the agency to withdraw one allegation relating to a ban on refusing to leave the road when asked by police or other officials.

Myriam Stacey QC, representing the Government agency, said the injunction banning protest activity on the M25 motorway was granted by a High Court judge on September 21.

She told the court it was accepted by National Highways that the protests fell into the category of “civil disobedience”.

She said a National Highways official described their protests, which began on September 13 and have continued for around nine weeks so far, as “unprecedented and sustained”.

She told the court the official also described the protesters as “peaceful and compliant”, and said they are “loosely affiliated” to Extinction Rebellion.

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

She said the protest on October 8 began at around 8.30am, with protesters blocking two lanes, and was ended shortly after 10am when the final two protesters – who had glued themselves to the ground – were removed by police.

The barrister told the court a spokesman for Insulate Britain said in a press release issued on October 14: “We would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the disruption caused over the last five weeks.

“We wouldn’t undertake these acts in normal situations.”

She added this came after “an outcry from the public”.

Ms Stacey said the group have a “blue lights” policy to allow emergency vehicles pass protest sites.

She told the court: “If there is an emergency vehicle then they will move out of the way for it. That is their policy.

“But if there is a tailback that the emergency vehicle is stuck behind, that doesn’t help.”

The nine are Dr Ben Buse, 36, Ana Heyatawin, 58, Louis McKechnie, 20, Roman Paluch, 28, Oliver Roc, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, James Thomas, 47, and Ben Taylor, 27.

Dr Buse is represented by lawyers while the others are representing themselves.

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

They include four injunctions granted to National Highways, banning demonstrations on the M25, around the Port of Dover and on major roads around London, and one to Transport for London (TfL).

TfL was granted a civil banning order aimed at preventing protesters from obstructing traffic on some of the capital’s busiest roads.

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.

Mr McKechnie said in a statement ahead of the hearing: “If the Government chooses to imprison us, so be it, this will show their cowardice.

“They would rather lock up pensioners than insulate their homes.

“They would rather lock up teachers than create thousands of proper jobs.

“I face the prospect of being sentenced to prison on my 21st birthday, this Government would rather lock up young people than take steps to reduce emissions.

“They will lock us up and leave thousands to die of cold this winter, and millions to face climate chaos in the coming decades.”

Mr Thomas said: “I’m scared about potentially going to prison.

“But I’m more scared of this Government’s complacency and lies about the climate.

“They are kicking the can down the road.

“We are running out of road.”

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 currently being gathered to bring proceedings in relation to protests on October 29 and November 2.

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

The group’s tactics include supporters gluing themselves to roads.

The Government plans to introduce new measures to clamp down on protests.

These include allowing the police to stop and search people where there is a reasonable suspicion they are carrying items intended to cause disturbance by “locking-on” using glue or other means.

The hearing, before Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Chamberlain, continues.