First jury trial of Insulate Britain campaigners begins after M25 blockade |  UK news

First jury trial of Insulate Britain campaigners begins after M25 blockade | UK news

Four climate activists have gone on trial for allegedly blocking the M25, in the first of dozens of jury trials planned for supporters of the Insulate Britain campaign.

Daniel Shaw, 37, from Northampton, Karen Wildin, 58, from Leicester, Maria Lee, 69, from Northampton, and Victoria Lindsell, 67, from Rugby, appeared at inner London crown court each charged with two counts of causing a public disorder, which they deny.

They are accused of taking part with others in protests on 13 September 2021 at junction 14 of the motorway, near Heathrow, and on 15 September 2021 at junction 25, north of the capital.

Opening the prosecution, David Matthew told jurors they were trying Shaw, Wildin, Lee and Lindsell “for what they did as part of the activities of the Insulate Britain group”.

“What happened on that Monday morning, September 13th last year, was, just before 9 o’clock in the morning, while the traffic was still including people going to work, this group of 14 people started their block, the traffic started backing up behind them,” he said.

They remained in place when police arrived and it took almost three hours for officers to remove them, Matthews told the court. “None of them moved until they were arrested,” he said.

On the second occasion, roadworks were taking place around the intersection, Matthews told the jury. – There was at least one ambulance in traffic. An ambulance man came forward and told the block to move. They moved and they got off down another roundabout. The traffic came down the slip road and eventually the ambulance managed to get through after a few minutes.”

Along with officers attending the scene of each protest, Matthews said he intended to call a witness from National Highways, the agency that manages the M25 and motorways across England and Wales, who would say that on each of the two days that Insulate Britain took action, “something like 40,000 vehicles were affected”.

The four defendants are charged with the old public order offence, which has since been replaced by a new statutory offense of public disorder, brought in by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, passed in April.

Judge Silas Reid told jurors that to find the defendants guilty, prosecutors must prove they committed an act “not justified by law” that impeded the rights of a significant number of members of the public “in the exercise or enjoyment of rights”.

He said: “Members of the public have a general right to have free movement and travel” on the highways in connection with the offense of public disorder.

He asked the jury to set aside their views on climate protests or climate activism, or groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain or Just Stop Oil.

“Your job is to try this case solely on the evidence that you hear in this trial,” Reid said. “This is not a trial about climate change or fuel poverty, or whether the actions of any of the organizations I have mentioned should be applauded or condemned. It is a trial about public embarrassment, and in particular about two incidents that happened last September.”

Insulate Britain said the trial was the first of at least 51 supporters on public disorder charges to take place over the next 13 months.

The trial continues.

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