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Extinction Rebellion vows to return to streets as convictions are overturned


By PA News

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Extinction Rebellion has vowed to return to the streets following more successful appeals to overturn convictions by its activists.

The environmental campaign group has recently won a slew of victories after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped the cases.

The group says that 2,500 people have been prosecuted since April 2019 and that “potentially hundreds if not thousands of the resulting convictions could be unsafe”.

Four more Extinction Rebellion activists had their convictions overturned at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

Andrew James, 70, Lou Ferns, 30, and Neil Traynor, 38, were previously found guilty of wilful obstruction of highways in central London.

Charles Hey, 33, was found guilty of unlawful public assembly in Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

But Bill McGivern, for the prosecution, said the Crown would not resist the appeals made by the defendants.

The Ziegler ruling, Judge Dennis’s recent ruling and now the CPS’s decision not to challenge these latest appeals just confirm what we have always said, which is that we are exercising our legal, democratic right to protest peacefully
Spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion

The Supreme Court overturned the convictions of four demonstrators at an arms fair in June after it found they had “lawful excuse” for the offence.

The case has become known as the Ziegler ruling.

A spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion, said: “The Ziegler ruling, Judge Dennis’s recent ruling and now the CPS’s decision not to challenge these latest appeals just confirm what we have always said, which is that we are exercising our legal, democratic right to protest peacefully.

“2,500 people have been prosecuted since April 2019. Potentially hundreds if not thousands of the resulting convictions could be unsafe.

“It is the responsibility of the Crown Prosecution Service to reassess all past and ongoing prosecutions in the light of the Ziegler ruling and to correct any miscarriages of justice.”

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators wear rat masks in Whitehall, London, in June 27 (PA)
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators wear rat masks in Whitehall, London, in June 27 (PA)

The spokeswoman said that Extinction Rebellion’s lawyers had written to the Director of Public Prosecutions requesting confirmation that this process is under way.

They are also asking for clarification that the CPS will be applying the Ziegler ruling in all future decisions to prosecute.

The group has posted online about an upcoming climate demonstration, which is due to last for two weeks, similar to its previous central London protests in September 2019.

Referring to a recent UN report calling for radical change with regard to climate policy, the spokesperson added: “On August 23, Extinction Rebellion will be back out on the streets to demand that change – and in the first instance, an immediate halt to all new fossil fuel investment.”

It is understood Extinction Rebellion will consult with police ahead of the protests.

In the hearing on Wednesday, the convictions of all four defendants were quashed.

James, of Southwood Road, Liverpool, was originally found guilty on February 16 2021 of the wilful obstruction of free passage along the highway at Millbank.

He was given a six-month conditional discharge and asked to pay £620 costs and a £22 surcharge.

Ferns, from Scotland, was originally found guilty on February 1 2021 of the wilful obstruction of free passage along the highway at Whitehall.

They were given a nine-month conditional discharge and asked to pay £310 costs and a £21 surcharge.

Hey, from Thaxted, Essex was originally found guilty on February 23 2020 of unlawful public assembly in Parliament Square.

He was given a nine-month conditional discharge and asked to pay £75 costs and a £22 surcharge.

Traynor, of Mosspark Road, Stretford, Manchester, was originally found guilty on April 29 2020 of the wilful obstruction of free passage along the highway at Millbank.

He was given a nine-month conditional discharge and asked to pay £500 costs and a £21 surcharge.

The CPS said it would contest another outstanding appeal, but an application would be made for the case to be transferred to another court.

Judge Mark Dennis QC said that further appeals would risk taking up “precious court time” and voiced his “considerable concern” about those on remand awaiting trial at the Central Criminal Court.

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