'Put me in prison or I'll block the motorway again' boasts defiant eco protester

16 November 2021, 11:32 | Updated: 16 November 2021, 17:30

By Daisy Stephens

An eco protester who is facing jail time for causing chaos on the M25 has warned the High Court he will "block the motorway again" if he is not put in prison.

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Ben Taylor, a campaigner from Insulate Britain, told the High Court on Tuesday if he is "not put in prison" for breaching an injunction banning disruptive protests on the nation's roads, he will "go and block the motorway at the earliest opportunity and will continue to do so until the Government makes a meaningful statement and acts on it".

He added that "whatever sentence or sanction" he was given "will be counter-productive and will only serve to fuel the campaign of Insulate Britain".

Mr Taylor said: "If you send me away to prison, ten people will step forward in my place. If you send each of us away, 100 people will step forward and take our places. 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 turn violent."

All nine Insulate Britain protesters admitted breaching an injunction for their part in a blockade at junction 25 of the M25 on October 8, during a High Court hearing today.

The hearing was adjourned on Tuesday afternoon, and all nine defendants will be sentenced at 10am on Wednesday by Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Chamberlain.

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However, two of the activists have asked National Highways to withdraw one allegation relating to a ban on refusing to leave the road when asked by police or other officials.

The nine appearing at the High Court are Dr Ben Buse, 36, Ana Heyatawin, 58, Louis McKechnie, 20, Roman Paluch, 28, Oliver Roc, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, James Thomas, 47, and Ben Taylor, 27.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, Insulate Britain campaigner Oliver said he was expecting to be sent to prison, but said he was "crapping" himself and felt "like crying".

"Mentally I've kind of been thinking we might find ourselves in court," he said, speaking to LBC's Rachael Venables this morning.

"We've been told that quite probably we'll get custodial sentences, so there's a high likelihood that by this evening I'll be in a prison cell somewhere."

Myriam Stacey QC, representing the Government agency, said the injunction banning protest activity on the M25 motorway was granted by a High Court judge on September 21.

She told the court it was accepted by National Highways that the protests fell into the category of "civil disobedience".

Nine activists from Insulate Britain are attending a hearing at the High Court today
Nine activists from Insulate Britain are attending a hearing at the High Court today. Picture: LBC

He added: "I feel terrified, I'm crapping myself and I feel like crying.

"I've just got all these emotions coming out of me."

However, he added that he did not have any regrets and maintained the Government needed to 'get on with the job' of insulating Britain's homes.

"It seems ridiculous that we're in this situation when what we're asking the Government to do is just an extremely practical... like it's a no-brainer thing that they should be doing," he said.

"I've got no regrets. I know we're doing the right thing."

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Emma, another campaigner from the group, said she was "proud" of their actions and did not intend to deny them.

"Our lawyers have said that we will be asked if we knowingly breached the injunction," she said.

"All of us are proud of our actions and what we've done and so we will say 'yes, we did, we broke the injunction', we won't challenge that in any way."

She also said she was expecting jail time, saying: "Our lawyer has told us to expect sentences of up to two years."

The protestors have so far stood by their cause
The protestors have so far stood by their cause. Picture: LBC

She said her family were "wonderful" and that she would "miss them enormously" if she was jailed.

"My family are wonderful, I love them very much, they're so supportive," she said.

"They ultimately see that what I'm doing is the right thing and I'm so grateful for that support.

"I'm going to miss them enormously."

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But she also said she did not have any regrets.

"Traditional protests and conservation hasn't worked, and in a critical situation it requires critical actions, extreme situations require extreme actions," she said.

"And sitting on the motorway is extreme, but facing the collapse of society is more extreme.

"So yes, I feel that my actions are proportionate to the crisis we're facing."

The group's protests began in September and have involved blocking the major roads in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Kent - most notably the M25 motorway.

Louis McKechnie said in a statement ahead of the hearing: "If the Government chooses to imprison us, so be it, this will show their cowardice.

"They would rather lock up pensioners than insulate their homes. They would rather lock up teachers than create thousands of proper jobs.

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"I face the prospect of being sentenced to prison on my 21st birthday - this Government would rather lock up young people than take steps to reduce emissions.

"They will lock us up and leave thousands to die of cold this winter, and millions to face climate chaos in the coming decades."

Mr Thomas said: "I'm scared about potentially going to prison. But I'm more scared of this Government's complacency and lies about the climate.

"They are kicking the can down the road. We are running out of road."

So far 161 people have been involved in the roadblock campaign and there have been more than 800 arrests.

Five injunctions have been issued by the High Court - four to National Highways and one to Transport for London.

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 at the High Court starts at 10.30am on Tuesday and is expected to last three days.