XR activists cleared over DLR train protest 'vindicated' and hope it 'inspires others'

  • Watch Victoria Davies' report

Three Extinction Rebellion (XRO) activists have been cleared over a 2019 stunt which saw them cause 77 minutes of disruption to a central London train.

One of the activists superglued himself to the rush-hour train while the other two protesters climbed on top of its roof and said prayers for the planet.

The trio say they feel “vindicated” by the jury’s decision – and hope it will inspire others to take similar action.

Reverent Sue Parfitt, Father Martin Newell and former university lecturer Philip Kingston caused more than an hour of disruption which saw 15 Docklands Light Railway (DLR) trains delayed or cancelled following their protest at Shadwell Station on October 17, 2019.

The jury heard a passenger plead “we have got to go to work, the kids are on the train and we have got to go to school”.

They were all charged with obstructing the railway but were unanimously cleared by a jury at Inner London Crown Court today (January 14).

Mr Kingston, 85, and from Patchway in South Gloucestershire, said he glued himself to the train "for his grandchildren".

Father Martin Newell and Reverend Sue Parfitt said they hope the jury’s decision will inspire others to act over the climate emergency Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Speaking outside the court following the verdict, 79-year-old Rev Parfitt, from Bristol, said she felt the verdict showed the protest had been “the right thing to do”.

She said: “It’s wonderful that the jury saw the bigger picture, that the court has vindicated our action, and we hope it in some small way inspires others to feel that there may be sacrifices to be made, perhaps particularly by people of faith.

“We have to do whatever it takes to try our best to enable the people on this earth to change direction radically so that we live differently and we live in a better way.

“We are in an extreme and dire emergency in terms of our civilisation and our human and non-human species on the planet, and we have to have action from the governments of the world.”

'Would I risk going to prison? Absolutely'

Father Newell, who is 54 and from Birmingham, said he is prepared for further action and would risk going to prison in the future.

He said: “I’m not sure that disrupting public transport is the right thing to do at this point, but in terms of would I risk going to prison? Absolutely.”

Father Martin Newell climbed on top of the train's roof and said prayers for the planet.

Mr Kingston, 85, from South Gloucestershire, appeared in court via video link.

Mike Schwarz, solicitor at the law firm Hodge Jones and Allen, which represented the defendants, said: “There is mounting evidence from the courts – and in particular from juries – that the public is taking the climate crisis and the increasingly urgent need to focus on it far more seriously than government and business. This verdict is part of this escalating pattern.”

The protesters are members of Christian Climate Action, an arm of XR.

They said they were strongly motivated by their Christian faith, while Mr Kingston said the futures of his four grandchildren also prompted him to take part in the protest.

What is Extinction Rebellion (XR)?

Extinction Rebellion describes itself as an international "non-violent civil disobedience" movement.

It says its aim to to "half a mass extinction" and it wants governments to take immediate action and declare a climate and ecological emergency.

In what they said was an attempt to appeal to the public and the Government about the dangers of climate change and the financial institutions whose actions damage the planet, they targeted a train one stop away from Bank in the City of London’s financial district.

Former university lecturer Philip Kingston glued himself to a DLR train Credit: Max Kara/Twitter/PA

Some 15 trains were delayed or cancelled but none were stuck in tunnels.

This was partly because, according to the activists, they had planned the demonstration to ensure there was no risk to public safety by taking certain measures, including targeting a station above ground and having 10 more XR activists on the platform to ensure violence did not erupt.

Rev Parfitt had previously vowed to continue protesting after being found guilty by a district judge at City of London Magistrates’ Court in February 2020 of refusing to obey a police banning order preventing protesters from demonstrating at Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge in London in April 2019.