Dewsbury man who took part in M25 Just Stop Oil protests defends action

Just Stop Oil protest on the M25/Anthony Whitehouse
Anthony Whitehouse was among the protesters who brought the M25 to a standstill. Credit: PA/ITV News

A grandfather from West Yorkshire who took part in environmental protests which caused chaos on the country's busiest motorway has defended the action as "absolutely necessary".

Just Stop Oil supporters brought the M25 to a standstill over a number of days earlier this month by climbing onto overhead gantries during rush hour, forcing the police to close large sections of the motorway.

Anthony Whitehouse, 71, from Dewsbury, was among 63 people arrested. He later pleaded guilty to a charge of public nuisance and was due to be sentenced at Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Speaking to ITV News ahead of his sentencing, the retired gardener said he expected magistrates to "take a fairly dim view" of what he had done, but that he was prepared to go to prison and was "expecting for the worst, hoping for the best".

Despite the repercussions he said: "What else can we do? We're not there to be liked, we're there to get a job done.

"I do appreciate that it is a criminal action, hence I'm in court, but if you weigh in the balance the amount of harm I have caused, I was probably only up there for an hour and 10 minutes and if you compare that with the the likely impact of the degradation of our climate then it's a no-brainer for me. I have to do this."

The protests coincided with the start of the COP27 international climate change summit in Egypt, as protesters called on the government to end new oil and gas projects.

Whitehouse said: "We did it for the very necessary reason the government are not acting according to what is needed to prevent the climate emergency that is happening all around us.

"So unless we do take strong action to make people aware of what is coming down the tracks, then my children and my grandchild are going to suffer immensely."

The demonstrators were accused of putting people's lives at risk by disrupting emergency services, with police branding them "criminal, reckless and dangerous".

Whitehouse said: "I absolutely would only be doing these actions knowing that we take every possible precaution to make sure ambulances and blue lights are not stopped.

"On this occasion we made sure that the hard shoulder remained open and we didn't block that."

He added: "A lot of people have been disrupted by our action and we apologise for that, but what else can we do?"

His sentencing comes as a new injunction was granted by the High Court, which could see activists face fresh penalties for demonstrating on the M25.

It means anyone entering, remaining upon or affixing themselves to any object or to any structure on the M25 may have civil proceedings launched against them for contempt of court.

The injunction will remain in place until just before midnight on 15 November next year.

The M25 was closed by police due to ongoing protests from the group Just Stop Oil Credit: PA Images

Whitehouse, who is living with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, said his condition could be worsened by prison but he was "prepared to take that risk because the stakes are so high."

In a message to his family he said: "I'm sorry kids, you know i've got to do this and I'm doing it for you guys."

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