Police intelligence suggests climate protesters are plotting further disruption in the new year, the High Court has heard, as seven activists face jail for blocking roads while one ignored a court summons in order to attend another demonstration.
Nine people were due to face contempt of court proceedings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, but two protesters did not appear this morning.
Insulate Britain say Dr Diana Warner, a retired GP from Bristol, defied the court summons to take part in another protest in Yorkshire to disrupt a train she thought was headed for the Drax power station this morning, and a warrant was issued for her arrest after repeated attempts to contact her were unsuccessful.
Dr Ben Buse, who is currently in prison having been among nine protesters to be jailed last month for similar breaches, was not brought to court due to an administrative error at HMP Thameside.
Both Buse and Warner are due to be dealt with on Wednesday.
The remaining seven defendants – Ruth Jarman, Biff Whipster, Paul Sheeky, Richard Ramsden, Stephen Gower, Steven Pritchard and the Rev Sue Parfitt – said they are prepared to go to jail for defying court orders banning protests in the wake of several days’ action during the autumn.
Myriam Stacey QC, representing National Highways, told the court there was ‘intelligence’ suggesting the group will resume their demonstrations in ‘the spring of 2022’.
The seven defendants, who have a combined age of 428 and include a 79-year-old Anglican priest, admitted the allegations but said they were compelled to act to highlight Britain’s so-called ‘leaky homes’.
Their court appearance comes almost a month after nine Insulate Britain protesters were given jail sentences ranging between three and six months for breaching High Court injunctions, and each were ordered to pay £5,000.
Insulate Britain supporters (L to R) Paul Sheekey, Rev Sue Parfitt, Biff Whipster, Ruth Jarman, Steve Pritchard, Steve Gower, Richard Ramsden outside the High Court
Today’s court appearance comes almost a month after nine Insulate Britain protesters were given jail sentences ranging between three and six months for breaching High Court injunctions, and each were ordered to pay £5,000. Pictured, supports of the nine jailed activists take part in a demonstration in London on November 20
Insulate Britain say Dr Diana Warner (pictured), a retired GP from Bristol, has defied the court summons to take part in another protest in Yorkshire this morning, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest after repeated attempts to contact her were unsuccessful
The protesters’ alleged breaches relate to an Insulate Britain protest on the M25, which led to tailbacks of 2.5 miles, when activists blocked the carriageways and glued themselves to the road.
Myriam Stacey QC, for National Highways, told the Royal Courts of Justice there is also reason to believe there will be further disruption.
‘Intelligence suggests they will resume in the spring of 2022,’ she said.
‘We asked for the source but we weren’t told. But it stems from the police.’
She said ‘numerous’ previous media statements issued by Insulate Britain signalled their intention to defy the injunctions against the group’s road blockades.
Ms Stacey said: ‘Insulate Britain appreciate the protests are in defiance of court orders, the breaches are deliberate and aimed at providing the protesters with the best possible platform…and the associated disruption was acknowledged but seen as a necessary corollary and proportionate to that goal.
‘It is safe to infer that they intend to continue on the basis that the risks attached to breaking the court orders are worth the price of espousing the cause they feel so strongly about.’
Warner defied a court summons and headed to Yorkshire today where she took part in another protest to disrupt a train she thought was headed for the Drax power station. However, Drax said the train was not one of theirs
Earlier, Lord Justice Dingemans issued a warrant for the arrest of Warner, 62, from Bristol, who did not attend court on Tuesday.
Catherine Oborne, for Warner, said repeated attempts had been made to contact her over the last 24 hours, but were unsuccessful.
In a video posted on Twitter, Insulate Britain said Warner was in Yorkshire as part of a protest to block a train she thought was headed for the Drax power station.
However, a spokesperson for Drax said: ‘The train they attempted to stop was not one of ours. Everyone has the right to peaceful protest but trespassing on railway lines puts the safety of train staff, as well as the protestors themselves, at risk.’
Speaking outside the court ahead of the hearing, Mr Pritchard, a property maintenance worker from Radstock in Somerset, said: ‘I’m obviously nervous.
‘The expectation is that I and the other defendants will have a custodial sentence. So, I’m fully expecting to go to prison.’
The 62-year-old added: ‘There are some circumstances under which I would consider going on hunger strike.
‘There’s not a lot to me, so I suspect it wouldn’t be a very long hunger strike.
‘I would become seriously ill and die.
‘But it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.’
Mr Pritchard’s threat of a hunger strike comes a day after a jailed Insulate Britain protester ended her hunger strike after 26 days.
Emma Smart, 44, had been under medical supervision on the hospital wing at HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Surrey, since November 26 after refusing to eat food.
She is now almost four weeks into a four-month prison sentence for contempt of court for breaching a National Highways injunction on protesting on the M25.
Smart originally vowed to go on hunger strike ‘until the government issues a meaningful statement to get on with the job of insulating Britain’s leaky homes’.
But the Extinction Rebellion offshoot said the protester from Weymouth, Dorset, ended this strike yesterday after receiving a letter from Sir Richard Drax.
Insulate Britain said the Conservative MP ‘wrote to express concern for Emma’s welfare and to request a visit, which is likely to happen within a couple of weeks’.
Jailed Insulate Britain activist Emma Smart, 44, of Weymouth, Dorset, pictured with her niece
Smart was imprisoned with eight other people from Insulate Britain. One of the group’s protests is pictured on October 13, which blocked the M26 at junction 31 in Thurrock, Essex
Fellow protester Rev Parfitt, an Anglican priest from Bristol who faces the High Court, today said: ‘It’s a pretty scary sort of experience.
‘I feel deeply called to do this because I think it’s the only kind of action left to do in the dire (climate) emergency we are in.’
The 79-year-old said she will not go on hunger strike should she be sent to prison, as others have done.
She said: ‘It is extreme action that we have taken, and we shall continue to take when we are out of prison, because what else can we do?
‘At my age, what have I got to lose? I have everything to gain in the sense of doing what I believe to be God’s will – that gives me total contentment and peace of mind.’
Police arrest retired vicar Sue Parfitt on Bishopsgate in London. She was arrested a total of nine times in just six weeks. The 79-year-old is among a group of people facing the High Court this morning
A further 17 climate activists face being summoned to the High Court at later dates, the group said last month.
Insulate Britain is demanding that the Government insulate Britain’s ‘leaky homes’ to avoid deaths caused by fuel poverty.
Since September, the group has disrupted traffic on the M25, as well as on other roads in London, Dover, Birmingham and Manchester.
Videos showing furious motorists dragging the climate activists away from the blockades previously have gone viral on a number of occasions.
A number of High Court injunctions against the group’s road blockades have been granted to Transport for London and National Highways to prevent their disruptive protests.
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.
The hearing before Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Johnson is due to start at 10.30am today.