Greta Thunberg acquitted after protest charge thrown out due to unlawful police conditions

Greta Thunberg acquitted over protest charge at Westminster Magistrates' Court Credit: PA

Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has had her public order charge thrown out due to unlawful police conditions, a judge has ruled.

The 21-year-old, from Sweden, was arrested during a demonstration near the InterContinental Hotel in Mayfair, London, on October 17 2023 as oil executives met inside for a conference.

Thunberg pleaded not guilty to breaching Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 alongside two Fossil Free London (FFL) protesters and two Greenpeace activists at the trial whoch lasted for two days.

The climate campaigner appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday where District Judge John Law said conditions imposed on protesters were “so unclear that it is unlawful” which meant “anyone failing to comply were actually committing no offence”.

Law said the protest was “throughout peaceful, civilised and non-violent” and criticised evidence provided by the prosecution about the location of where the demonstrators should be moved to – saying the only helpful footage he received was “made by an abseiling protester”.

He added: “It is quite striking to me that there were no witness statements taken from anyone in the hotel, approximately 1,000 people, or from anyone trying to get in.

“There was no evidence of any vehicles being impeded, no evidence of any interference with emergency services, or any risk to life.”

The court heard that protesters started to gather near the hotel in October last year at around 7.30am and police engaged with them about improving access for members of the public, which the prosecution alleged had been made “impossible”.

The judge rejected the submission as “the main entrance was accessible (meaning) that the condition… was unnecessary when the defendants were arrested”.

The prosecution previously told the court the section 14 condition was imposed at around 12.30pm, which dictated that the protest could continue but on the pavement to the south of the hotel.

Footage was played to the court in which Miss Thunberg said ‘I’m staying’ when asked to move by police constable David Lawrence.

The climate campaigner could be seen laughing while footage of her being escorted away was played.

Judge Law said the senior investigating officer for the protest, Superintendent Matthew Cox, had admitted that “less restrictive were available” to police managing the demonstration.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said "While we absolutely respect the right to protest, we often hear from Londoners who are fed up with repeated serious disruption at the hands of campaigners who block roads and prevent people going about their normal business."

 “Officers have to balance these considerations in real time. Parliament has legislated to allow conditions to be imposed on protests to prevent serious disruption or disorder."

 “Clearly, in this case, the court has reached a different view to officers as to whether their use was appropriate. We will review the decision carefully.”

Speaking after the hearing, Miss Thunberg’s lawyer, Raj Chada, told reporters: “The charges against them were rightly dismissed.

“The conditions imposed on the protest were unclear, uncertain and unlawful.

“They were unlawful because they disproportionately interfered with our client’s right to free speech.

“The Government should stop prosecuting peaceful protesters and instead find ways to tackle the climate crisis.”

He said “we will look into all options” when asked whether civil action would be taken against those who prosecuted the case.

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