UK Jury Clears Extinction Rebellion Activists Who Blocked Rush-Hour Train

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
January 14, 2022 Updated: January 14, 2022

A jury has cleared three Extinction Rebellion activists who caused 77 minutes of disruption to a rush-hour train in central London in 2019.

Shortly before 7 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2019, Philip Kingston, 85, super-glued his hand to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train at Shadwell Station, while Sue Parfitt, 79, and Martin Newell, 54, climbed on the roof and said prayers for the planet.

Despite causing 15 trains to be delayed or cancelled, the trio were unanimously acquitted on Jan. 14 by a jury at Inner London Crown Court of obstructing the railway.

The three activists, who are members of Christian Climate Action, a group within Extinction Rebellion, said they were strongly motivated by their Christian faith.

But Conservative MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said he does not see their action as being “a particularly Christian thing to do.”

“The selfish actions and egos of these individuals prevented people from getting to work to provide for their families, children from attending school, wasted the time of our emergency services, and put people’s lives at risk,” he said.

Clarke-Smith criticised the jury’s decision as giving “the green light to people looking to commit all manner of appalling crimes in the name of religion to justify their extreme political ideologies.”

He said he would “always defend the jury system,” but said it “clearly needs a review.”

Tom Hunt, another Conservative MP, also called the verdict “a dangerous precedent.”

Speaking outside the court, Parfitt said she felt the court has “vindicated” their action and the verdict showed the protest had been “the right thing to do.”

Mike Schwarz, solicitor at the law firm Hodge Jones and Allen, which represented the defendants, said: “There is mounting evidence from the courts—and in particular from juries—that the public is taking the climate crisis and the increasingly urgent need to focus on it far more seriously than government and business. This verdict is part of this escalating pattern.”

The verdict comes just over a week after a jury cleared four people of criminal damage over the toppling of a statue of 17th-century British merchant Edward Colston, who was involved in the slave trade.

Following the jury verdict on Jan. 5, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said vandalism “remains a crime” and the government expects police to take it seriously.

Commenting on both cases, Tom Hunt, the Conservative lawmaker, told Daily Mail: “Unfortunately, I suspected that the disappointing Colston statue verdict might be a green light for other criminal acts, and that is what we are starting to see.”

“It is clear to me that those committing vandalism and damaging public property, or blocking public access like roads or railways, should be punished. I am disappointed to see another instance where this has not been the case, and concerned about the precedent this continues to set.”

PA Media contributed to this report.