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Starmer says 'pathetic' eco mob 'needs to feel the full force of the law' as two charged for private jet stunt

21 June 2024, 13:34 | Updated: 21 June 2024, 19:35

Starmer says eco mob 'needs to feel the full force of the law' as he slams 'pathetic' Just Stop Oil
Starmer says eco mob 'needs to feel the full force of the law' as he slams 'pathetic' Just Stop Oil. Picture: Alamy

By Danielle de Wolfe

Sir Keir Starmer has said that Just Stop Oil must "feel the full force of the law", as two activists were later slapped with criminal charges for targeting private jets.

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Sir Keir was quick to condemn the actions of eco-protesters, following a spate of recent stunts that also included vandalising Stonehenge with orange powder.

Police announced on Friday evening that Jennifer Kowalski, 28, and Cole Macdonald, 22, had been charged with criminal damage, aggravated trespass and interfering with national infrastructure after Thursday's stunt at Stansted.

But LBC analysis has revealed that just 0.1% of Just Stop Oil activists who have been arrested for protests have served time behind bars.

Sir Keir said he wanted to "condemn their actions outright." He added that the activists were "pathetic" and "self-defeating".

Read more: Fury at ‘weak’ justice for eco mob as LBC analysis reveals 99.9% of arrested Just Stop Oil protesters avoid jail

Read more: Two charged after Just Stop Oil protesters sprayed private jets with orange paint at Stansted Airport

Keir Starmer lambasts 'pathetic' Just Stop Oil protesters

"They need to feel the force of law - particularly in relation to their latest antics," Sir Keir added.

His comments come as Just Stop Oil entered a "sustained period of action" in a bid to disrupt summer holidays, with the group's latest private jet stunt just the tip of the iceberg according to the activist group.

Members of the climate action group have been arrested a total of 3,122 times since it was founded in February 2022.

But just 0.1% have served time behind bars after being sentenced for their crimes, leading to calls for the next government to further clamp down on the activists.

During the visit, Starmer vowed to crack down on protests by enforcing the law to its fullest effect.

“That’s what will happen if we have an incoming Labour government, because one of the failures over the last 14 years has been a failure to grip criminal justice," Starmer said.

“And therefore, whether it's in our prisons, in our courts, statistic after statistic is showing this government has failed on criminal justice.

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Read more: 'Akin to domestic terrorism': Farage slams Just Stop Oil's latest 'appalling' stunts after Taylor Swift's jet targeted

“Well, that’s a matter for the courts but my own view is that what they’ve done is pathetic and they need to feel the full force of the law.”

It comes after Just Stop Oil sparked nationwide anger by spraying Stonehenge with orange powder on Wednesday, before targeting private jets at Stansted Airport the following day.

Two people were released on bail after being detained at Stonehenge, whilst two women were arrested following the stunt at Stansted.

Lord Walney, the government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption, called for stronger deterrents to be introduced by the next government.

He told LBC: "Just Stop Oil are actively bragging about how few of their activists end up being convicted for the extreme sabotage and disruption they're committing.

"There's just not sufficient deterrents within the criminal justice system to stop this kind of behaviour. The public absolutely hate it - it's causing really significant damage and disruption with the potential for further escalation."

Legal commentator, Joshua Rozenberg, said juries may also be reluctant to convict who they might see as “well-meaning” people.

He told Nick Ferrari: “Certainly, people have been convicted. There is a wider problem, as you well know, prisons are completely full.

“We are told after the election whoever is in charge will have to start letting people out.

“There is also a policy of not sentencing people to short sentences of a year or less in custody and indeed the current government that people getting short sentences should have them suspended.

“There is no doubt that courts are reluctant to send first-time offenders to prison, even for something as serious as criminal damage.”

Cole from Just Stop Oil explains why she’s sprayed orange paint over jets at Stansted Airport

Lord Walney, who earlier this year recommended restricting and even banning "extreme" protest groups, urged whoever becomes Home Secretary following the general election to bring in tougher punishments.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex Roger Hirst told LBC police are too focussed on “minimising disruption to the public.”

“In most cases where it’s a repeat offender… then they have actually received an appropriate intervention.”

Many of the 3,122 arrests include repeat offenders, including one activist who told LBC he had been arrested 31 times.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage described Just Stop Oil's action on Stonehenge as "akin to domestic terrorism", and said those responsible should "go to prison for a very, very long time."

He said LBC's analysis showed "the police are weak, the courts are weak, the government is weak - we are too weak."

Just Stop Oil say 139 of its members have been handed jail terms for offences such as criminal damage and obstruction of the highway, but 135 of those were released following their sentencing, due to the time they'd spent on remand awaiting court hearings.

Only four have been sent to jail after their punishment was handed down, including Marcus Decker and Morgan Trowland, who climbed the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and remained suspended on cables for 37 hours, causing gridlock on the M25.

Just Stop Oil spokesperson Bing Jones told LBC the group are "peaceful, all our actions result in people going to court, many of them are going to prison, we are serious people who take into account each action that we've done".

He also claimed the Stonehenge stunt did "exactly what's needed", saying "we got front page coverage in three national newspapers, lots of talk, we put the climate on the front page.

"We are failing on the climate radically - starch washes off but the climate breakdown is forever. We're in the middle of the election, we're not even beginning to deal with the most urgent issue of our time."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer blasted the damage done to Stonehenge as “outrageous”, and described the group as “pathetic”.

He agreed with Mr Farage that they should feel “the full force of the law”, whilst Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the action a "disgraceful act of vandalism".

A JSO spokesperson said: “Just Stop Oil supporters know they risk arrest and even prison. The social science says civil disobedience is the best way to bring about rapid social change, and the natural science says we are in a catastrophic climate emergency and that unless we change course rapidly this will result in the death and suffering of billions of human beings.

“The UK government has become increasingly repressive it beggars belief that they are willing to go to these lengths instead of fulfil their legally binding climate promises."

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