Priest, 79, tells judge: I will continue climate protest if I’m spared jail

Insulate Britain protesters have made impassioned speeches seeking to justify forming human roadblocks on the road network, as it emerged future protests are planned for next year.

Seven members of the climate action group appeared at the High Court having been accused of breaking court injunctions.

The protesters, who have a combined age of 428 and include an elderly Anglican priest, admitted the allegations but said they were compelled to act to highlight Britain’s so-called “leaky homes”.

They face possible jail sentences when Lord Justice Dingemans hands down his judgement on Wednesday.

One of the defendants, the Rev Sue Parfitt from Bristol, drew applause from members of the public inside the Royal Courts of Justice when she addressed the judge about her determination to continue protesting in the event she is not jailed.

The 79-year-old told the judge: “Wasn’t it worth me sitting on the motorways to flag (our) message, and to interrupt people’s lives for an hour or so, in order to protect our children?

“It is of no consequence to me what you do with me today.

“If you leave me at liberty, I shall continue to protest in whatever way most dramatically draws attention to the plight we are all in – whether that involves breaking the law or not.”

Stephen Pritchard, 62, from Radstock in Somerset, told the judge he had personally been thanked by police and motorists for their protests, despite the disruption.

He told the court: “I will continue to block roads in peaceful protest regardless of the consequences for me personally.

“We are all mired in the consequences of climate breakdown.”

L to R) Paul Sheeky,Rev Sue Parfitt, Biff Whipster, Ruth Jarman, Steve Pritchard, Steve Gower, Richard Ramsden

And Steve Gower, 54, from Gloucester, added: “I took part in short, non-violent action on behalf of people present and future not in a position to make their voices heard – I will sleep tonight and thereafter with a clear conscience.”

The four other defendants are: Ruth Jarman, 58, from Hook; Hampshire; Biff Whipster, 54, from Canterbury, Kent; Paul Sheeky, 46, from Warrington, Cheshire; and Richard Ramsden, 75, from Halifax, West Yorkshire.

Two further defendants: Dr Diana Warner, 62, from Bristol; and Dr Ben Buse, 36, who is currently in prison having been among nine protesters to be jailed last month for similar breaches, did not attend Tuesday’s hearing for various reasons, but are expected to be dealt with alongside the other seven on Wednesday.

The breaches relate to an Insulate Britain protest on the M25, which led to tailbacks of 2.5 miles, when activists blocked the carriageways and glued themselves to the road.

Myriam Stacey QC, for National Highways, said there is also reason to believe there will be further disruption.

“Intelligence suggests they will resume in the spring of 2022,” she said.

“We asked for the source but we weren’t told. But it stems from the police.”

She added that “numerous” previous media statements issued by Insulate Britain signalled their intention to defy the injunctions against the group’s road blockades.

Ms Stacey said: “Insulate Britain appreciate the protests are in defiance of court orders, the breaches are deliberate and aimed at providing the protesters with the best possible platform, and the associated disruption was acknowledged but seen as a necessary corollary and proportionate to that goal.”

She added: “It is safe to infer that they intend to continue on the basis that the risks attached to breaking the court orders are worth the price of espousing the cause they feel so strongly about.”

The case was adjourned until Wednesday.