Just Stop Oil activists jailed for scaling Dartford Bridge fail in bid to have sentence slashed

31 July 2023, 19:06 | Updated: 31 July 2023, 19:12

Decker and Trowland are appealing their sentences
Decker and Trowland are appealing their sentences. Picture: Social media/Essex Police

By Kit Heren

Two Just Stop Oil protesters who were jailed for scaling a bridge on the Dartford Crossing have lost an appeal to get their sentences reduced.

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Marcus Decker, 34, and Morgan Trowland were sentenced to two years and seven months and three years respectively for causing a public nuisance with their stunt in October last year.

Spokespeople for the group say the sentences are the longest in British history for peaceful climate protest.

Decker and Trowland appealed their sentence earlier this month, but judges ruled against them on Monday.

Lady Justice Carr, sitting with Mrs Justice Cutts and Mrs Justice Thornton, said: "This was very serious offending by repeat protest offenders who were trespassers and on bail at the time. Whilst the protest was non-violent as such, it had extreme consequences for many, many members of the public.

"Mr Trowland stated in his evidence that 'the warning message is dependent on disruption'.

"The grave consequences that we have described were not only inevitable, as the protesters would have known, they were precisely what the protesters intended and set out to achieve."

People affected by their stunt, which saw the bridge closed for over 40 hours in October last year, included a "heavily pregnant woman who needed urgent medical help," Essex Police said.

Another person missed the funeral of their best friend of 35 years, the force said, and a business lost more than £160,000 in earnings.

Protesters demanding the pair are freed
Protesters demanding the pair are freed. Picture: Alamy

Decker spoke to LBC from his prison cell after being sentenced in April.

He told LBC he “wasn’t expecting” the lengthy sentence, but said he’d rather be in prison than take no action on the climate crisis.

Decker, who is a qualified teacher, said he didn’t believe his punishment was fair because of “the wider situation”.

He suggested the estimated 638 excess deaths recorded in the UK on the hottest day of 2022, which saw temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius, justified the action and should have resulted in a lesser sentence.

Dartford Crossing still blocked after Just Stop Oil protesters scale bridge

He said: “If somebody had climbed the Dartford Crossing for a completely different reason then I would expect that to be thrashed out in court like it was with us.

“We explained to court and gave evidence on the crisis we are in right now, and the people that died in the United Kingdom last year in the heatwave because of the climate and ecological emergency. I believe that situation wasn’t taken into consideration, and I don’t think we should be sentenced to such high punishments.”

Read more: Two activists who shut down Dartford Bridge for 17 hours in eco-protest jailed for more than five years

Marcus Decker
Marcus Decker. Picture: Essex Police

He admitted holding up thousands of people in traffic for 36 hours in October last year was a “terrible thing”, acknowledging that people missed funerals and hospital appointments.

He said: “I feel terrible about that. Causing people pain - real pain. I really hope we can find ways to have a similar impact without that pain.”

But he justified the action he took with Trowland, claiming there was “no other way” to get their message out.

He said: “If there was a different way of achieving that warning then I would try to do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt so many people then I would, but I am at a loss.”

Decker, who lived with his partner and her children before he was charged with causing a public nuisance in October 2022, told LBC of the impact of his sentence on his own family, saying “it’s very hard to have that disruption to our family life.

Likewise, my mother and my brother, everyone is shocked at the long sentence.”

He said “they understand why I’ve chosen to take this action, and they’re very supportive of what I have done”.

He also told LBC he believes the thousands of people who were stuck in the traffic jams would “consent” to the disruption they faced “if they knew the full scale of the pain and suffering of those already losing their lives every year, every day, in countries around the world that are least responsible for this climate and ecological emergency we find ourselves in”.

Men guilty of public nuisance after climbing QEII Bridge

Marcus also warned the lengthy sentences given by the judge will not deter other activists from taking similar action.

He said: “They can throw at us what they want, but they will never crush this movement. There is nothing worse than losing everything.”

Sentencing Decker and Trowland at Southend Crown Court, Judge Collery KC told the activists: “You have to be punished for the chaos you caused and to deter others from copying you.”

He told the pair “[you] plainly believed you knew better than everyone else”, adding: “In short, to hell with everyone else.

“By your actions you caused this very important road to be closed for 40 hours,” the judge said, noting that the disruption affected “many tens of thousands, some very significantly”.