Three Just Stop Oil protesters found guilty of aggravated trespass after disrupting Wimbledon tennis matches

26 February 2024, 16:55 | Updated: 26 February 2024, 17:41

Three Just Stop Oil protesters have been found guilty of aggressive trespass after disrupting a Wimbledon tennis match
Three Just Stop Oil protesters have been found guilty of aggressive trespass after disrupting a Wimbledon tennis match. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Three Just Stop Oil protesters have been found guilty of aggressive trespass after disrupting a Wimbledon tennis match at last year's competition.

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Deborah Wilde, 69, Simon Milner-Edwards, 67, and William Ward, 66, were found guilty at City of London Magistrates' Court after they threw confetti and puzzle pieces on the court.

Wilde and Milner-Edwards managed to scale a barrier to access Court 18 at the Championships at Wimbolden in July last year, the court heard.

Ball boys, ball girls, and officials scrambled to clear pieces off the court, which disrupted the match between Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Japan’s Sho Shimabukuro.

Around an hour later Ward entered the same court in a match between Britain's Katie Boulter and Australian Daria Saville and threw red and gold confetti across the lawn.

The trio denied their actions had amounted to aggravated trespass.

William Ward on Court 18 at Wimbledon throwing confetti onto the grass during Katie Boulter's first-round match against Daria Saville, July 5, 2023
William Ward on Court 18 at Wimbledon throwing confetti onto the grass during Katie Boulter's first-round match against Daria Saville, July 5, 2023. Picture: Alamy
A Just Stop Oil protester is removed from Court 18 on day three of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, July 5, 2023
A Just Stop Oil protester is removed from Court 18 on day three of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, July 5, 2023. Picture: Alamy

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The activists threw "around 1,000" puzzle pieces onto the court from a jigsaw purchased at the Wimbledon gift shop, Michelle Dite, the operations director for the All England Lawn Tennis Club, told the court.

The players were left “very frustrated" and "probably quite intimidated”, she added after describing the scene as "very unsettling”.

She said Wimbledon staff cleared the jigsaw pieces by hand and used leaf blowers to collect the confetti.

Wearing Just Stop Oil T-shirts, Wilde and Milner-Edwards were arrested just after 2pm on Court 18, and Ward was taken into custody around an hour later.

The protests were met with loud "boos" from the crowd, the court heard.

"Hundreds of thousands of pounds" were spent on managing potential protests last year after Just Stop Oil demonstrated at the World Snooker Championships and Ashes Test at Lord's Cricket Ground, Ms Dite said.

Court 18 is a show court, where many top seeds play in front of "a few hundred" people and there is extensive video coverage, Miss Dite said.

Katie Boulter looks on as ground staff clear confetti from court 18 after a Just Stop Oil protester invaded the court on day three of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships, July 5, 2023
Katie Boulter looks on as ground staff clear confetti from court 18 after a Just Stop Oil protester invaded the court on day three of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships, July 5, 2023. Picture: Alamy

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The judge said: "Firstly I want to thank all of the defendants for the way they've conducted themselves this evening, all of you will have been very stressed.

He said it was "not in dispute" that each defendant "sprinkled some confetti or tinsel and some jigsaw pieces on to that playing field" and said that he "found it a fact" that they were trespassing.

He accepted that the three protesters waited for a break in play, but added: "Nevertheless I find as a fact that each of them intended to cause disruption to the tennis and as a result they did cause some disruption on that day."

Wild and Ward were each handed a six-month conditional discharge, while Milner-Edwards received an 18-month conditional discharge.

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