Insulate Britain protesters 'punch the air' as they're released from jail

Emma Smart, an ecologist, and Diana Warner, a retired GP, were freed from the jail shortly after 9.40am

Published Last updated

The members of Insulate Britain who were incarcerated at HMP Bronzefield in Surrey have been released.

Emma Smart, an ecologist, and Diana Warner, a retired GP, were freed from the jail shortly after 9.40am on Friday.

The group are among 10 people who were jailed for breaking the Government’s M25 injunction.

Members of Insulate Britain took part in a series of protests which saw them stage blockades on major roads between September and November last year, causing long traffic jams.

They are calling for the Government to put in place policy and funding for a national home insulation programme, starting with all social housing.

The Government-owned National Highways responded to the protests by obtaining High Court injunctions, which banned demonstrations on motorways and major A roads in England.

During a High Court hearing in November, Thomas, Smart, Rock, Paluch and Speers admitted breaching an injunction by taking part in a blockade at junction 25 of the motorway during the morning rush hour on October 8.

They were handed four-month sentences.

Warner was given a two-month prison term at a separate High Court hearing in December for breaking the injunction in September.

Smart, 44, from Dorset, undertook a 26-day hunger strike while in prison and was moved to the hospital wing at HMP Bronzefield 13 days into her strike.

Speaking about the experience from prison, she said: “I was on hunger strike for 26 days whilst in prison. I would rather be doing my job, as a research scientist, progressing scientific analysis, as an ecologist. But instead, to enact the rapid change we need, this feels like the only option left.”

Thomas, 47, from London, who was held at HMP Thameside, said: “My time in prison has been uncomfortable, stressful and sometimes scary.

“But nobody I’ve met in here has been angry about our actions [blocking the M25]. Some inmates have been full of respect. All of them have ‘got it’, and understood why we did it.

“People might say, does this kind of civil disobedience actually work? And I would say, well quite often, it doesn’t work. But quite often it does work, and those instances are well known throughout history.

“And so, given where emissions are, and given where the clock is, and given where the politics isn’t, how could we not try this?”

A final member of the group, Ben Taylor, a community volunteer, remains in prison after being handed a six-month sentence.

Three other members of the group who were jailed last year have since been released.

The pair, who were jailed along with eight other campaigners last year for breaking a Government injunction, were hugged by friends and supporters outside the prison.

People cheered as they left the site, with Ms Smart punching the air.

Insulate Britain campaigner Emma Smart said it was “a beautiful day” as she left prison.

The ecologist undertook a 26-day hunger strike while at HMP Bronzefield in Surrey and was moved to the hospital wing 13 days into her protest.

Speaking to media after leaving, she said: “This is amazing. This is a beautiful day. It is lovely to have the sun on me – I’ve not had it on me for a few weeks.”

She read from a statement outside the jail, which said: “Whilst we have been in prison, families in Britain have been told to expect a 50% increase in their energy bills. This is a disgrace.

“We know that millions of households in the UK already struggle in fuel poverty, with many thousands of people dying cold. lonely deaths every year because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

"Insulate Britain believes that Britain deserves better. In the 5th richest country in the world, no family should have to choose between heating and eating.

"By failing to insulate Britain’s leaky homes or to act decisively on the climate crisis, our government is failing in their most basic duty, to protect us."