Insulate Britain protester who blocked M25 released from prison after 26-day hunger strike

Ecologist Emma Smart (right) and retired GP Dr Diana Warner outside HMP Bronzefield, in Surrey, following their release Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

An Insulate Britain campaigner who undertook a hunger strike while in prison has said it was “a beautiful day” as she was released.

Emma Smart, an ecologist from Dorset, was freed from HMP Bronzefield in Surrey shortly after 9.40am today (January 14).

The ecologist undertook a 26-day hunger strike while in prison. She was moved to the hospital wing 13 days into her strike.

Speaking to media after leaving, she said: “This is amazing. This is a beautiful day. It is lovely to have the sun on me – I’ve not had it on me for a few weeks.”

She read from a statement outside prison, which said: “Whilst we have been in prison, families in Britain have been told to expect a 50% increase in their energy bills. This is a disgrace.

“We know that millions of households in the UK already struggle in fuel poverty, with many thousands of people dying cold, lonely deaths every year because they cannot afford to heat their homes.”

Smart, along with nine others, was jailed last year for breaching a Government injunction preventing the campaigning group from protesting on the roads.

Dr Diana Warner, a retired GP, was also released from the same prison.

Four other members – James Thomas, an architect, Oliver Rock, a carpenter, Roman Paluch, a warehouse operator, and Tim Speers, a volunteer – are also being released on Friday, from HMP Thameside in south-east London.

What is Insulate Britain and what do they want?

The group is an the offshoot of Extinction Rebellion (XR), an environmental movement that has staged numerous protests across the country urging the government to do more to tackle the climate crisis.

Campaigners of Insulate Britain are demanding the government perform a comprehensive retro fit of all UK homes to insulate the homes of the poorest people.

The aim is to ensure lower energy bills and warm homes for the most vulnerable and to reduce carbon emissions.

Since July, the group has been hosting online and in-person events across England and Wales.

Emma Smart, with Dr Diana Warner, said thousands die ‘sad, lonely deaths’ Credit: left

Members of Insulate Britain took part in a series of protests which saw them stage blockades on major roads between September and November last year, causing long traffic jams.

The Government-owned National Highways responded to the protests by obtaining High Court injunctions, which banned demonstrations on motorways and major A-roads in England.

During a High Court hearing in November, Thomas, Smart, Rock, Paluch and Speers admitted breaching an injunction by taking part in a blockade at junction 25 of the motorway during the morning rush-hour on October 8. They were handed four-month sentences.

Warner was given a two-month prison term at a separate High Court hearing in December for breaking the injunction in September.

A final member of the group, Ben Taylor, a community volunteer, remains in prison after being handed a six-month sentence.

Three other members of the group who were jailed last year have since been released.