Just Stop Oil activists found guilty over protest at World Snooker Championships

Edred known as Eddie Whittingham told judge his actions were "reasonable" Credit: PA

A Just Stop Oil activist who covered a snooker table with orange powder during World Championships in Sheffield has been convicted.

Edred "Eddie" Whittingham, 26, was found guilty of causing criminal damage, while 53-year-old Margaret Reid was convicted of attempting to cause criminal damage.

Whittingham, a home energy advisor, told a judge his actions were "reasonable and proportionate in the light of the greater threat we are facing from the climate crisis".

The pair interrupted a match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry at The Crucible last year, causing nearly £900 worth of damage.

In footage of the incident shown to the judge, the defendant who was wearing a Just Stop Oil T-shirt could be seen releasing the orange substance - which he told the court was dyed corn starch powder - and kneeling amid the balls on the table before being pulled off by security.

The clip shown to the court went on to show Reid trying to do the same thing on the other table, on the other side of the barrier in the theatre, but she is tackled by referee Olivier Marteel before she can get on the table.

Whittingham denied causing damage to a snooker table, owned by the firm Xingpai, and Reid denied attempting to cause criminal damage.

He said he had planned the protest in order to draw attention to Just Stop Oil's campaign to change the Government's policy on oil and gas extraction, which he told the court was "breaking the law".

Whittingham said: "I didn't intend to cause damage, I intended to cause disruption."

He said he thought it was "highly possible that (the powder) would be wiped off, or hoovered off, without causing significant damage to the baize or the table."

He agreed that his actions caused inconvenience to those who attended for "peaceful enjoyment" and to the organisers of tournament, who had to abandon play for the day on the table he targeted.

But the defendant told the district judge at Sheffield Magistrates Court: "I consider it reasonable and proportionate in the light of the greater threat we are facing from the climate crisis."

The Crucible Theatre is best known for hosting snooker's World Championships. Credit: Press Association

Giving her evidence, Reid cited her long experience as a conservator in the museum sector, saying she believed any powder could have been easily removed without causing damage.

She described it as an "unpleasant and scary thing to do" but said she had been driven to an "outrageous and disruptive act such as this"

Reid said she had "no other effective options" open to her to halt the "pain and death and misery" that climate change will bring.

Asked about the impact of her actions on the people who had paid to watch a snooker match, the defendant said: "I'm really sorry about that but I was really aware that these same individuals would be so much worse affected by the impact of fossil fuels."

Judge Curtis said he had to consider the defendants' rights under Article 10 -freedom of expression - and Article 11 - freedom of assembly and association - of the Human Rights Act but he stressed this did not provide "blanket immunity".

Whittingham, of May Street, Exeter, and Reid, of Low Fellside, Kendal, Cumbria, were given unconditional bail and will be sentenced at Sheffield Magistrates' Court on July 10.

Max Hinchcliffe, of the Crown Prosecution Service Yorkshire & Humberside, said: "Edred (Eddie) Whittingham and Margaret Reid showed an utter lack of thought or care for the players at the tournament or the fans watching from across the world.

"The law upholds the right to protest but this must be balanced against the rights of others and this case shows that when lawful protest crosses the line into criminality we won't hesitate to prosecute offenders."

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