An activist in Insulate Britain has told the High Court he will “block the motorway at the earliest opportunity” if he is not jailed for violating an order banning the group from protesting on the M25.
Ben Taylor, 27, was one of nine members of the climate activist group who appeared before the Royal Courts in London on Tuesday, accused of violating the order given to National Highways by blocking a roundabout on London’s orbital motorway.
Dr. Ben Buse, 36, Ana Heyatawin, 58, Louis McKechnie, 20, Roman Paluch-Machnik, 28, Oliver Roc, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, James Thomas, 47, and Taylor all face a potential two years imprisonment and unlimited fine.
All but Buse defended themselves in court and were invited to respond to comments made by the plaintiff’s lawyers. In a statement repeated by all defendants, Roc from London told Dame Victoria Sharp, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, and Mr Justice Chamberlain: “I am proud of our actions and I stand by what we have done. “
He continued: “We obviously did not do it for personal gain. We took responsibility for our actions, and I did them in an attempt to alleviate the suffering of people in this country who cannot insulate or adequately heat their homes.”
Taylor told the court that if the judges did not send him to jail he would “go out and block the highway at the earliest opportunity”, adding: “And I will continue to do so until the government comes up with a meaningful statement and fucks action on it, ”he said, urging a reprimand from Sharp for his language.
“If you send me to jail, 10 people will come forward in my place,” Taylor said. “If you send each of us away, 100 people will step forward and take our place. If you send 100 of us away, 1,000 people will step forward to take our place.
“If you somehow manage to stop all non-violent protests, then things will only get violent.”
Since the beginning of their campaign of disruptive road protests on 13 September, Insulate Britain’s activists have intervened on 19 different occasions on the roads in and around London, at the port of Dover and most recently in Manchester and Birmingham.
They call on the government to agree to a program to isolate all of Britain’s homes by 2030, starting with social housing, as a first practical step towards tackling the climate crisis. So far, 174 people have been arrested 857 times as part of the campaign, according to the group’s own estimates.
Myriam Stacey QC, representing National Highways, told the court that the nine defendants were among 15 to 20 activists blocking a roundabout leading to the M25 near Waltham Cross on October 8. The protest was in violation of an injunction issued on September 22 banning the group from protesting on the M25.
A National Highways official had described Insulate Britain’s protests as “unprecedented and persistent,” Stacey said. She read out lines from press releases and social media from the group that made it clear that they knew they were in violation of court rulings and that they knew they were causing major disruption.
Stacey said the court should take into account when deciding a verdict that the defendants were committed to their right to protest. But she added: “Everyone is bound by the law. The right to protest is not absolute.”
The case continues. Sharp said she would deliver her verdict on Wednesday at. 10.00.