Grant Shapps vows to continue crackdown on eco activists after nine jailed

17 November 2021, 12:14 | Updated: 17 November 2021, 14:13

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Grants Shapps has vowed to continue to crack down on Insulate Britain protesters after nine activists were jailed at the High Court.

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Following sentencing, which saw all nine jailed for three to six months, the Transport Secretary insisted: "I'll continue to do all I can to protect road-users and prevent dangerous, disruptive behaviour."

He said that "anyone who causes misery to motorists may face prison".

READ MORE: Eco protesters jailed for defying High Court injunction on M25

READ MORE: Two months of chaos: A timeline of Insulate Britain's disruptive protests

Insulate Britain praised the campaigners, saying they "chose not to stand by and be complicit in genocide".

The group added: "We are being failed and betrayed by our government."

A statement from the nine activists, read outside the Royal Courts of Justice, said: "Over the last nine weeks, 174 ordinary people have held the Government to account, asking that they deliver on their most basic of duties, to protect the British people, the economy and all we hold dear in our society.

"Your government has now chosen to act. It has chosen to imprison us for this demand.

"By imprisoning us, the Government shows its cowardice. They would rather lock up pensioners than insulate their homes.

"They would rather lock up teachers than create thousands of proper jobs. They would rather lock up young people than take practical steps to reduce emissions.

"They will lock us up and leave thousands to die of cold this winter. We knew we would face prison when we took this action, but we could not stand by while the Government betrays the general public."

Ana Heyatawin, 58, and Louis McKechnie, 20, were sentenced to three months in prison while Dr Ben Buse, 36, Roman Paluch-Machnik, 28, Oliver Rock, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, and James Thomas, 47, all received four-month sentences.

Addressing the media afterwards, an activist said Smart intended to go on hunger strike after being jailed for four months.

Ben Taylor, 37, was given a longer sentence of six months.

Dame Victoria Sharp, sentencing, described submissions made by him to the court on Tuesday as "inflammatory" and a "call to arms".

She said she was giving him the longer sentence "to deter (him) from committing further breaches".

Taylor had told the court if he was not in prison he intended to "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".

The campaigners were jailed after admitting breaching an injunction designed to prevent the group's road blockades.

Dame Victoria, sitting with Mr Justice Chamberlain, said there was no alternative to custodial sentences given the group's actions were so serious and they had made it clear they intended to further flout court orders.

She said: "The defendants, or some of them, seem to want to be martyrs for their cause and the media campaign surrounding this hearing appears designed to suggest this.

"We, however, have to act dispassionately and proportionately."

The group and its supporters chanted "we are unstoppable, another world is possible" as they were led to the cells through the dock by security officers.

Raj Chada, solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen law firm who supported the protesters, said: "With these prison terms, the long and honourable tradition of civil disobedience is under attack again.

"Rather than leaving courts to imprison those that raise the alarm, it should be the Government that acts to protect us against the climate crisis."

Insulate Britain began a wave of protests in September, demanding the Government makes plans to insulate Britain's homes.

They blocked roads including areas of the M25, Liverpool Street in central London and roads around the Port of Dover.

The controversial protests saw activists glue themselves to the road before they were removed by police.