A Walthamstow Extinction Rebellion protester on trial for blockading the printing press of some of the UK’s major newspapers has been found guilty.
Six activists, including Elise Yarde, 32, of Walthamstow, appeared at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on Friday accused of obstructing the highway outside Newsprinters printing works in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on September 4, 2020.
Judge Sally Fudge convicted the defendants, saying that while the demonstration was “peaceful” it had a significant impact on the ability of businesses to function and caused newspapers to lose an estimated £1 million.
The court heard how on the night of September 4 through until the next day, around 50 XR members used vehicles and bamboo structures, used as lock-ons, to deny access to or from the Broxbourne site. The protest lasted 14 hours.
Those involved were targeting certain parts of the print media who, according to the defendants, “failed to accurately report on the climate crisis and are guilty of corruption”.
The Newsprinters presses publish the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including the Sun, Times, Sun On Sunday and Sunday Times, as well as the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided to try six defendants at a time.
This is the second trial, and it also involved defendants Caspar Hughes, 49, of Exeter; Amir Jones, 39, of London; Laura Frandsen, 30, of London; Charlotte Kirin, 51, of Bury St Edmunds; and Hazel Stenson, 56, of Bury St Edmunds.
A verdict was expected last month but Ms Fudge agreed to postpone the trial to await the outcome of a Supreme Court judgment, which on June 25 overturned the convictions of four protesters who had locked themselves together outside an arms fair in 2017.
The four demonstrators were found to have been exercising their rights to free speech and assembly and had a lawful excuse.
Ms Fudge concluded the police had acted proportionately in arresting the protesters, adding: “The level of disruption caused by the protest was high, and the obstruction of the highway went on for a very long time.