A 64-year-old woman has been convicted of aggravated trespass after taking part in a Just Stop Oil protest at a fuel site in Essex last week.
Catherine Maclean, of Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex, became the first person to be convicted over involvement in the recent wave of fuel site blockades after admitting the offence at Chelmsford magistrates court on Saturday, Essex police said.
She was charged over the incident at an oil terminal in Thurrock on Wednesday.
Assistant chief constable Rachel Nolan said: “Sadly, Ms Maclean’s actions means she now has a criminal record.
“No one – least of all my officers – wants to see this happen but it is a timely reminder that if you come to Essex to engage in trespass, even though you may see it as protest, you will be arrested, you will be charged and that is likely to lead to a criminal conviction.
“We are not anti-protest in any way. Individuals have a protected right to protest but these incidents have unfortunately crossed into criminality and we have been left with no other option but to act and seek authorisation from the Crown Prosecution Service to charge people.”
Just Stop Oil have been behind organised blockades of fuel terminals in south-east England and the Midlands since 1 April in an attempt to force the government to cut reliance on fossil fuels.
The protests in Essex on 13 April focused on the Purfleet oil terminal, the Inter terminal in Grays and the Navigator terminal in Thurrock. The group said it hoped the blockades would “significantly impact fuel availability at petrol pumps across the south-east”.
James Skeet, 34, of Drayton Street, Manchester, and Stephanie Aylett, 27, of High Oaks, St Albans, also appeared alongside Maclean during her hearing on Saturday. Both activists denied a charge of aggravated trespass and breach of bail conditions, Essex police said. They were remanded and will appear back at Chelmsford magistrates court next week.
So far, 23 people have been charged in connection with the disruption around Thurrock since the beginning of April, Essex police said, and the force has made 461 arrests.
The protests in Essex came in the week that campaigners caused rush-hour chaos in west London by clambering on to an oil tanker and forcing the closure of a major roundabout leading to the start of the M4.
Four activists glued themselves to the top of an Eddie Stobart fuel tanker at the junction, which feeds traffic from west London on and off the motorway. Off the side of the articulated lorry they had draped flags reading: “Just Stop Oil.”
Initially, cars were able to pass the occupied tanker on lanes either side, with many drivers hurling abuse at the protesters.
Hours earlier, police raided an anarchist meeting space in east London. The Network for Police Monitoring tweeted that the raid was “attempting to crack down on @XRebellionUK [Extinction Rebellion] and @JustStop_Oil”.
Additional reporting by the Press Association news agency.