court

#Heathrow13 Trial: Day 2

The second day of trial got off to a roaring start, with 5 more defendants giving evidence in the morning session, and 3 in the afternoon.

Amusingly, after getting schooled yesterday by Ella Gilbert on the use of “Third World”, the prosecution lawyer McGhee has rather taken to using the term “Global South”. If nothing else, that’s an achievement in itself.

The Prosecution has been trying to prove that any effect we had on emissions was minimal in the grand scheme of things. Those who have given evidence so far have refuted this by comparing the emissions saved by cancelling 25 flights to the energy usage of individuals and households in the UK, and confirming that in absolute terms, the figures are astounding. Stopping a flight is probably the most significant action an individual can take to reduce emissions, if you consider that the average UK citizen generates 9.4 tonnes of CO2 in a year, and the average household uses 20.7 tonnes (and a flight emits about 11).

All the defendants have detailed the lengths which they have gone to in order to change their own lifestyles – most of us have not flown in several years, do not drive and are actively involved in campaigning.

Mel Strickland kicked off the day’s proceedings, delivering measured, sincere and impassioned evidence.  She emphasised that the actions of Plane Stupid on the 13th of July were a direct action, which directly reduced emissions from aviation by preventing aircraft from taking off. She drew on expert testimony from Alice Bows-Larkin to show that this was a reasonable and proportionate response, given that Heathrow represents 48% of UK emissions from aviation, and that aviation cannot be decarbonised.

"We are 13 ordinary people who find ourselves in an impossible situation…with the colossal problem of climate change. We don’t have the power, influence or resources that Heathrow does and there is no political will to change things via legal procedures."

Mel told the Prosecutor in her cross-examination that it is those who are unrepresented and have no stake in the political process, the millions who are suffering as a result of climate change, and local residents breathing poisonous air who she had in mind on that runway.

Amazingly, at this point, the Judge acknowledged that CO2 emissions cause climate change, with potentially “catastrophic” effects, and that aviation contributes to this.

Mel went on to say that efforts beyond the law are essential to democracy, and she exemplified, "That’s why you’re a Judge, Madam, because of the efforts of the suffragettes" ; hands-down most badass retort to the judge all day (or any day)!

She ended on another powerful note: "This action was a carefully considered minimum possible response to total political failure to tackle climate change. We felt it was a basic moral commitment to act."  BOOM!

Next up, Dr. Rob Basto gave an emotional and clear testimony. He was typically modest, underplaying the understanding he has as a result of years of work and the small matter of a PhD in atmospheric physics. As he mentioned, the Arctic may be nearly ice-free in the summer by mid-century. Rob cited reading about this 15 years ago (when it was nowhere near as certain) as one of the pivotal and terrifying moment when he really became aware of climate change.

Rob also spoke emotively about the impacts of Heathrow Airport’s toxic air pollution on his sister-in-law’s health. He drew a useful analogy with smoking – we have a law against smoking inside. By preventing one person from smoking, you are improving the health and life outcomes of everyone in the room. Just because there is no identifiable person or effect does not mean the law to prevent people smoking inside is any less valid. Cancelling flights is like this – one less plane is 11 tonnes more CO2 that is not emitted.

We all have a responsibility to act, and the danger is now, and Rob isn’t going to stand idly by while people die, and neither will any of the other defendants.

Graham Thompson is a veteran climate campaigner, and he explained at length the negative effects of emissions from aviation, particularly at high altitude. As he noted, Heathrow is a huge point source of emissions, second in the UK only to Drax Power Station.

Judge Wright’s patience began to "wear thin" after Graham continued to elaborate on climate change’s relationship with Heathrow, but again she noted that she was prepared to believe that all the defendants feel passionately about the issues and feel they’ve been "banging their heads against a brick wall."

Edge-of-the-seat stuff! What a result! Graham’s best quotes were tough to decide; it’s a clincher between these two:

"I’m sometimes concerned that I’m not doing enough, but I’ve never been worried I’m doing too much"

"I don’t believe I am entitled to break the law generally. I felt like breaking the law was not the most serious issue in this particular instance."


The Judge keeps coming back to the issue that the emissions prevented were a tiny fraction of those emitted globally – however, this doesn’t detract from the fact that the world is 250 tonnes of CO2 better off as a result.

Next up: the polar bear (AKA Cameron Kaye).  Cameron is a community campaigner who lives in the Heathrow villages and is involved with grassroots groups like HACAN and SHE. He restated that the Davies Report had been the final straw in terms of the campaign. 

When pressed by the Judge, he described the difference between a direct action such as ours and a protest. Direct action stops the issue that one is concerned about, whereas a protest is more about raising awareness and lobbying. On the issue of necessity: "I felt like I didn’t have a choice any more."

Comically, Cameron was grilled about why he was dressed as a polar bear – this mainly focused on the visual connotations and imagery associated as a means to suggest our actions were a publicity stunt.

Danielle Paffard, a "Professional Environmental Campaigner", took to the witness box next. She came out swinging with some comparisons and statistics on climate and aviation emissions. As she pointed out, 2015 was the hottest year on record and contained news of Indonesian forest fires, floods in the UK and droughts in California.

Before Danni could get much further the judge interjected to prevent the trial becoming a "political platform".

Even the government's own statutory advisor, the Comittee on Climate Change, is being ignored when it warns that uncontrolled aviation expansion will wreck policy. This represents a "huge failure in democratic processes [around Heathrow] and actions needs to be taken". There are no other avenues to take. As Danni aptly put it, "Given the scale of the challenge, I think it was completely reasonable. Given the scale of the challenge, I think it was completely necessary." Every tonne of carbon counts, especially when we’re running out of time.

The award for the best out of context quote for the day goes to District Judge Wright, on hearing that Danni's family, who make a living growing apples in California, were affected because drought wrote off the apple crop:

“Were you taking action in order to save the apples?”

Lucky number 8, Alistair Tamlit, focused on the failure of the political process, and the effects of climate change on people in the global South who are not responsible for emissions from aviation. He defended our actions as "absolutely" necessary and "absolutely reasonable in the face of the scale of climate change."

Sheila Menon rapidly followed, hailing climate change as a “human rights issue of gargantuan scale”. She reminded us that the window of opportunity to act on climate change is rapidly closing and therefore reinforced the urgency that underpinned our decision to act. Ordinary people are paying with their lives because economic growth and prosperity are prioritised over life and limb, and people around the world are discounted in decisions, alarmingly.

Sheila then highlighted the inadequacy of the Davies Commission’s findings in that they investigated which airport to expand rather than whether to expand at all. Deciding to fly more planes represents a “suicidal” decision, given that we are currently on track for 4°C warming, which would have severe implications across the world. Even sitting in the shade in the hottest parts of the world could lead to death from exhaustion and heat stroke.

The day concluded abruptly and somewhat dramatically with the Judge rescheduling and shortening the trial. Tomorrow is likely to be the last day of evidence, with the final 3 defendants giving evidence. Judgement is expected to be delivered next Wednesday, the 27th January.

Solidarity messages with Plane Stupid and the #Heathrow13

On Monday the 18th, 13 Plane Stupid activists stand trial in Wilsden Magistrates Court for occupying the Northern Runway at Heathrow in July 2015. All 13 have pleaded not guilty to the charges of aggravated trespass and being in a restricted zone. Their defence is based on necessity, that their actions were reasonable and justified in the face of climate chaos, which causes death and serious injury. Full details of the trial can be found here. Ultimately, climate defence is not an offence! 

Responding to our call out, groups from around the UK and the world have been sending solidarity messages and pictures to show their support. Here is a selection of what we've received so far: 

Official support from the Green party via Twitter

International support from the Northern Forest Defence in Turkey, who are fighting a 3rd Airport in Istanbul, which would devastate remaining forests.

More international solidarity from France, where the fantastic ZAD (Zones to Defend) movement have been fighting various forms of destructive industry for years. Most notably, the ZAD in Notre Dame des Landes is the largest land occupation in Europe, a giant cousin to the UK's Grow Heathrow. Together we say 'No airport expansion anywhere!'

Heathrow 13 on trial - but who are the guilty ones?


Next week 13 people will stand trial for their role in challenging the climate crimes of Heathrow expansion. But who are the guilty ones? Ordinary people who risk arrest and personal liberty to stop carbon emissions and draw attention to the devastation of aviation expansion, or a rich business-government partnership that wants to build an unnecessary third runway that will crash our emissions targets, further damage the health of local communities and cause catastrophic climate change?
 
Last summer, shortly after the publication of the Davies report which recommended expansion of Heathrow, 13 members of Plane Stupid occupied Heathrow’s northern runway, constructing a sophisticated fortress in the early hours of the morning, with a polar bear seated on top of an iceberg in a cage and the rest locked on in various ways. They stayed in position for six hours, causing the cancellation of a number of flights, saving hundreds of tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere, whilst apologising for any disruption caused to passengers. They were eventually arrested and charged for aggravated trespass and being airside without permission.

The 'Heathrow 13' now face a two-week trial at Willesden Magistrates Court, starting next week (18th-29th January). All 13 have pleaded not guilty, and will be running a ‘necessity’ defence of preventing greater harm. They believe their actions were justified, necessary and proportionate in the face of the destruction and public health damage caused by Heathrow airport, and plan to draw on witnesses including leading climate scientists, politicians, prominent authors, campaigners and local residents to give evidence.

Court schedule and sentencing

Each defendant will be giving evidence, in turn from the 18th-21st January, with defence experts and witnesses giving evidence from 21st-25th January. Judgement will be given on 29th Jan at Uxbridge Magistrates Court (note change of location for final day). If convicted, the sentencing may be given a few weeks later.

Possible sentences range from fines and community service to up to 3 months in prison. Prison is a real possibility, following the recent imprisonment of peaceful protestors – such as the Love Activists who occupied the old Bank of England to highlight lack of support for the homeless, and Trenton Oldfield who disrupted the Oxford-Cambridge boat race in protest of elitism and inequality – which could indicate a trend towards more severe sentencing for people taking peaceful direct action. It’s a risk the defendants have said they are willing to take, noting that a short spell in prison is still a life of privilege compared to those living on the frontlines of climate change such as low lying Pacific Island states, facing the total destruction of their homes, communities and entire way of life.

Direct action is a vital part of any functioning democracy. It’s played a key role in many of the civil liberties we take for granted today such as the eight-hour working day, the weekend, women’s right to vote, equal rights for people regardless of race and ethnicity. Since the Heathrow action, the discourse around whether to expand Gatwick or Heathrow has shifted to include climate change. This is no longer a debate around which airport to expand, but whether to expand at all.

More runways means more climate chaos and air pollution

 When you look at the facts, it’s clearly the Government and Heathrow airport that should be on trial. They cannot be relied upon to take action on climate change, instead going in the opposite direction.

The urgent need to take action is clear, given breaches of the Climate Change Act and EU limits on NO2, poor health and early death due to air and noise pollution from the airport, and increasing CO2 concentrations leading to catastrophic climate change, which is causing the sixth mass extinction event and, if action is not taken, will result in the displacement of 75 million people by 2035 and exponentially more beyond, as well as death, disease and injury to people - last year alone 300,000 people died due to climate change. Being one of the hardest industries to decarbonize, the only way to reduce emissions from aviation is to fly less.

Giving evidence for the defence is Professor in Energy & Climate Change Alice Bows-Larkin on the impacts of aviation on climate change, and Associate Professor Steven Barrett on air quality and public health impacts of UK airports. Bows-Larkin’s research found in 2005 that, if aviation growth isn’t reduced, by 2037 all of the carbon that it’s safe for the UK to emit will come from aviation alone. Papers by Barrett have warned of more than 50 deaths a year directly attributable to air pollution from Heathrow. They also found that every year UK airport emissions are responsible for 4,400 cases of respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children and 2,300 cases of asthma exacerbation in asthmatic children, as well as 16,000 lost work days and 89,000 minor restricted activity days.

The UK, and particularly London, has long been in breach of EU air pollution limits. Just this week, London breached EU air pollution limits for the whole year in just eight days. Environment ministers will soon be in court over inadequate plans to address dangerous and illegal NO2 levels. 93% of the population-weighted mean due to UK aviation emissions in Greater London is accounted for by airports. This means that 93% of the total aviation emissions (weighted for population) occurs in the Greater London area – and poor air quality is likely to be the dominant environmental cause of mortality in 2050 (even more than dirty water or poor sanitation). Aircraft emissions account for 27% of annual mean NOx emissions near (and 15% 2-3km downwind of) airports. Reports estimate that UK airport emissions at their 2005 baseline cause 110 deaths per year, which will likely rise to ~250 per year by 2030, even without expansion. Expansion at Heathrow would increase UK-wide health impacts due to air quality by 4% in 2030 relative to the baseline (again assuming no expansion). Aircraft emissions already result in approximately 31 deaths per year within 32km of Heathrow.

Perks for the few

The problem is not the average family taking an annual holiday, and that is not what is driving the expansion. Nor – despite what the pro-expansion lobby would have you believe – is it even business flights, which have been in decline for 15 years. What is actually driving demand for more runways is wealthy frequent flyers. The 10-15 per cent of the UK population who flew three or more times last year took a whopping 70 per cent of all of UK flights. 57 per cent actually took no flights at all, with the rest taking just one or two. And the strongest predictors of frequent flyer status? A salary of over £115,000 and ownership of a second home abroad. Not only that, the most popular destinations from the areas with the most frequent flyers are tax havens. The facts speak for themselves – this is about a rich minority living luxury lifestyles, while the rest of us pay the real cost.

Government lies


Five years ago David Cameron unequivocally cancelled plans for a new runway with his now embarrassingly infamous "No ifs, no buts, no third runway" pledge. But he then found some profitable 'ifs' and 'buts' and commissioned Howard Davies to produce the £20 million Airport Commission to decide not 'whether' to expand or not, but 'which' airport to expand. Nowhere in the report was the option of 'neither'. Nowhere was the real impact on the climate and local communities seriously considered. The 'Heathrow 13' group took their action two weeks after the publication of the Airport Commission and before the government’s response to the report, which has now been delayed until after London Mayoral elections.

Support the #Heathrow13

The group has been receiving messages of solidarity from groups and individuals from across the UK as well as further afield such as Turkey and France, where the fight has continued for over 40 years against the proposed Notre Dame des Landes mega-airport near Nantes. Last weekend, on Saturday 9th January, 20,000 people, 400 local farmers on tractors, and 200 bikes blocked the Nantes ringroad in protest against the building of what would be Europe’s largest airport. A forest – known as la ZAD (Zone À Défendre) – has been occupied for years to protect it from the threat of destruction by the airport project. The same story runs through their struggle – local communities, wildlife and the climate face of devastating damage in the name of needless profit.

Supporters will also be outside Willesden Magistrates Court on the first day of the trial (Monday 18th January) for a solidarity demo organised by allies at Reclaim the Power. The theme is RED lines - lines which represent minimum limits for a just and liveable planet; lines that global leaders inevitably crossed in their genocidal deal, signed in Paris, and which Heathrow would cross in the building of a third runway. Defending those red lines is not a crime, and the Government has shown that it can’t be trusted to take action. The facts speak for themselves – it’s new runways or a safe climate; we can’t have both.

Plane Stupid will be covering the court proceedings on Facebook, Twitter and their website with daily updates. Support the #Heathrow13 by sharing updates on social media and/or come down to the court and join the solidarity demo on Monday.

Letter of solidarity to the Crown Prosecution Service

Plane Stupid would like to thank all of the signatories to the letter below, sent to the Crown Prosecution Service on Friday 9th of October, 2015. 

We are deeply grateful and appreciative of all the support we have received - from the signatories, from Heathrow’s local residents and from other groups campaigning for David Cameron to keep his promise.  No ifs, no buts, no new runways, anywhere.  

Open Letter to the Crown Prosecution Service

In July a group of climate activists with anti airport expansion group Plane Stupid took peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport. They have been charged with aggravated trespass and being in a restricted area of the airport without permission.

The Plane Stupid action, which came just weeks after the recommendation by the Airports Commission to build a new runway at Heathrow, highlighted the importance of considering climate change in the context of any discussion about the future of the aviation industry.

The science tells us that deep cuts are required from existing levels of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change, but successive governments, including the present one, have failed to act appropriately. A new runway, and the many thousands of extra flights it would allow, would make the necessary cuts far more difficult to achieve.

Against this background, with the failure of the democratic process, the actions of the Plane Stupid activists were reasonable, justifiable and honorable. We, the undersigned, call upon the CPS to drop the charges against the activists in the public interest – we should be congratulating them for the defending the planet, not prosecuting them.

Signed: 

John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor)

Natalie Bennett (Leader of the Greens)

Caroline Lucas MP

Michael Mansfield QC (Human rights lawyer)

Rajiv Menon QC (Human rights lawyer)

Nnimmo Bassey (Leading African environmentalist, Winner of Right Livelihood Award)

Bill McKibben (Founder of 350.org)

Craig Bennett  (CEO, Friends of the Earth)

John Sauven (Executive Director of Greenpeace UK)

John Stewart (Chair of HACAN)

Suzanne Jeffrey (Vice Chair of Campaign against Climate Change)

Dr Damien Short (Human rights advocate and lecturer)

George Monbiot (Writer) 

 

UPDATE: this letter was referred to in this Guardian article on Friday 9 October 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/09/shadow-chancellor-calls-for-charges-against-heathrow-activists-to-be-dropped

The Heathrow 13 – Case Management Hearing 19th August 2015

 

Yesterday, we - the 13 Plane Stupid activists who occupied the northern runway of Heathrow Airport for over six hours on 13th July - had our hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates Court. All 13 of us pleaded not guilty to both charges brought against each of us, and are now set to have a full two week trial, commencing on Monday 18th January 2016.

We arrived at court in the morning to be greeted by a whole array of media journalists, as well as a sea of supporters, including local residents and campaigners from grassroots groups and NGO’s, elected representatives of political parties, and even a handful of polar bears! We would all like to sincerely thank all those who were able to come to the court to support us, as well as those who have shown their support from afar. It’s touching to feel so supported by so many people, for taking the action that we have. Thank you all; your invaluable support means so much.

Needless to say, starting the day with polar bears, friends and supporters fuelled us with hope and joy for the day to come. We were always aware that this hearing was going to be relatively simple; mainly an opportunity for us defendants to receive the prosecution’s case against us (although this didn’t actually materialize in the end) and for each of us to enter our pleas. And our amazing lawyers from Bindman’s and Hodge, Jones & Allen walked us though the process and made sure we were supported thought the day.

 

Last time this runway was defeated, climate change was at the core of the argument. Local campaigns such as HACAN, Stop Heathrow Expansion and NOTAG have been fighting aviation expansion for years and, whilst winning some concessions, Heathrow continues to lie to the public, and the Government continues to ignore climate change. But climate change won’t wait for an unwilling political system to act.

Any kind of airport expansion in the UK will make it impossible for the UK to meet its legally binding target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% (from 1990 levels) by 2050. It’s really that simple. In fact, the aviation industry is the only carbon intensive industry in the UK that is effectively being given a license to pollute.  Furthermore, the ‘need’ for airport expansion is being driven by the wealthy minority (10-15%) of UK citizens who are responsible for booking the vast majority (70%) of flights in the UK, mainly to short-haul destinations that could easily be reached by train. Heathrow continues to lie about the economic benefits, and underplays the real cost to the public and climate that airpot expansion will have.

 It’s reassuring to know that the amount of time the court has given us will allow us to adequately put forward our case, and that the overwhelming support from both inside the court room, outside the court and in the general media, shows that people agree with us and feel it’s important for the issues to be heard.

Social and regular media this week has been awash with our message that climate change must be at the forefront of the debate around airport expansion and if it takes its rightful place as the key issue, it rules out expansion. #Heathrow13 shows just a pocket of this support from all over the country; this is not just a local issue even though some of the activists involved are local residents.

I am filled with a lot of hope for the future; the support we have been shown is truly heart warming, from letters from parents to local residents and fellow activists. The only way for this campaign is up, but we can’t fight climate change alone. The Government needs to be shown our true power, so please continue to support Plane Stupid, HACAN, Stop Heathrow Expansion, Grow Heathrow, Gatwick Obviously Not!, Reclaim The Power, and all the other groups and organisations fighting airport expansion. Together we can stop this! We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. No If’s, No Buts, No Third Runway… and we mean it!

Cameron Kaye

Defendant

 

Heathrow activists plead not guilty

 

From Press Release:

Today at Uxbridge Magistrates Court, the 13 climate change activists who blocked a runway at Heathrow airport pleaded not guilty. They are charged with aggravated trespass and entering a security restricted area of an aerodrome, forcing flights to be delayed and cancelled. The defendants will argue in court that the runway occupation was necessary and justifiable. If aviation growth continues unchecked, by 2037 the  industry will be responsible for all of the carbon that the UK can safely emit.[1] Failure to prevent climate change will see at least one billion people suffer water shortages, 40% of species made extinct and sea level rises threatening London by the end of the century.[2]

Defendant Ella Gilbert, 22, said:

"We didn't want to do this, but we had to. If the government won't prevent catastrophic climate change, ordinary citizens have to step up; you can't reduce carbon emissions and build more runways, it's plane stupid. There is already more than enough aviation capacity for ordinary people who take their one holiday abroad a year. Airport expansion is for the 15% of wealthy frequent flyers who take 70% of our flights.[3] A broad movement is again uniting to make airport expansion impossible, and we're in it for the long haul!"

The proposed start date for the trial is 18 January and it is estimated to last 2 weeks.


Plane Stupid Press Statement:

In the early hours of Monday 13th July, 13 of us took peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport. Two weeks before our action took place, the Airports Commission issued a recommendation to build a new runway at Heathrow Airport. Some of us are local residents, and the existing air traffic from Heathrow is already having a hugely negative impact on the local community by way of noise & air pollution and blight on the area.

Last year more than half the UK population didn't fly. Airport expansion in the UK is being driven by a minority of wealthy frequent flyers who are booking the vast majority of flights in the UK. But the long term negative impacts of airport expansion will mean everybody pays the price.

Scientific evidence is telling us that if we are serious about tackling climate change, and keeping within the safe 2 degree global temperature rise, we need to be drastically reducing our carbon emissions. But our government is clearly failing to act responsibly.

Building any new runway in the UK is simply not compatible with reducing carbon emissions at this critical time, and will make it impossible to meet our legally binding commitments, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008.

It is critically important that climate change is prominent in the context of any discussion about the future of the aviation industry. Against this background, and the failure of democratic processes, we believe our actions were reasonable, justifiable and necessary.


Previous press releases:
July 14: http://news.met.police.uk/news/thirteen-charged-following-protest-123389
July 13: http://planestupid.com/blogs/2015/07/13/plane-stupid-activists-heathrow-...


[Notes]

[1]
Page 5 of Growth Scenarios for EU & UK Aviation: contradictions with climate policy, Summary of research by Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research for Friends of the Earth Trust, Drs Alice Bows, Paul Upham, Kevin Anderson, The University of Manchester, 16 April 2005, http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/aviation_tyndall_summ...

[2]
Page 5 of Stern Review. (2006). Part II: Impacts of climate change on growth and development. Stern, Nicholas, HM Treasury. London. October 2006. http://www.wwf.se/source.php/1169157/Stern%20Report_Exec%20Summary.pdf

[3]
Based on passenger survey data: Table ATT0601, Public experience of and attitudes towards air travel, DfT Statistical release, July 2014. Analysis by afreeride.org

Further statistics with sources are available at afreeride.org/about

[ENDS]

Support the Plane Stupid climate activists in court on 19 August!

Last month activists staged a peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport – less than a fortnight after the Airports Commission recommended a third runway at Heathrow. The action itself involved occupying the northern runway and erecting a tripod and fencing which the activists locked onto. A polar bear climbed onto the tripod. The action stopped some flights and saved greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The science tells us that deep cuts are required from existing levels of emissions to tackle climate change, but successive governments have failed to respond. Direct action, therefore, is our only hope of securing a decent future for children everywhere. A new runway, and the hundreds of thousands of extra flights it would allow, would make the necessary cuts far more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. In addition, Heathrow hugely contributes to illegal levels of air, and noise pollution, which have massive impacts on health for people living near the airport and for Londoners generally.

 

For defending the planet and human health, the activists have been charged with aggravated trespass and being in a restricted area of the airport without permission. If you want to show them your solidarity, please support them at their first court hearing on Wednesday 19 August 2015, at Uxbridge Magistrates Court (nearest tube: Uxbridge, on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines). A gathering is taking place outside the court from 8.30am. 

For more updates, see https://www.facebook.com/events/480531532112107/

 

The full address for the court is:

 

The Court House
Hare field Road
Uxbridge
Middlesex
UB8 1PQ

 

The court hearing will probably last until at least lunchtime.  

An appeal to better judgement

Today defendants Tilly Gifford and Dan Glass from the Climate 9 had their appeal heard at Edinburgh Appeal Court against the conviction they received last summer for a breach of the peace.

The conviction related to direct action taken in March 2009 where the Climate 9 shut down Aberdeen airport and directly stopped 107 tonnes of emissions from contributing to man-made climate change. They played golf in a cage on the taxiway to highlight the fact that the airport's expansion will serve to deliver Donald Trump's super-rich golfer pals to his contentios course at Balmedie Estate.

Following a two week long trial in August 2010, which was the first jury-led climate change trial in Scotland, all 9 defendants were convicted of Breach of the Peace for their role in the protest. Dan and Tilly made the decision to appeal against the conviction as they hold firm to the belief that the action they took was justified, proportionate and necessary in the face of catastrophic climate change.

Appellant Dan Glass said:

"The Scottish legal system defines breach of the peace as an activity "causing fear and alarm to the ordinary and reasonable person, and which threatens serious disturbance to the community". I can't think of a better way to describe climate change. Sometimes, we believe, the law must be challenged to protect our fundamental freedom of expression and to disrupt lawful activities that are harming the prospects of future generations. Furthermore, it's the role of a democracy to protect the voices of the minority as well as the majority".

The appeal has reached its final stages after months of anticipation and against the backdrop of severe climate change, as recent estimates suggest an unthinkable 4 degree temperature rise by 2080. During the 4 hour hearing this morning the court heard a strong case from the defence, who argued that the jury wasn't given any sense of this grave context regarding both the importance and urgency of the protest.

Appellant Tilly Gifford said:

"The judge presented a choice to the jury between 'breach of the peace' and 'freedom of expression' without any context. This is simply not good enough. The jury should be given the serious climate change context of the situation relating to the case, otherwise the inference is completely abstract from the reality."

The appeal verdict will be heard within the next 6 weeks in a final court hearing. A date is not set yet. If it is successful it will set an important precedent for future protest cases, through actively defending freedom of expression and supporting the legitimacy of the right to protest given the governments inaction to effectively tackle climate change. It would be the first legal case in Scotland to engage with the severity of climate change that we face and challenge the 'business as usual' attitude that the aviation industry is taking in its expansion plans.

Plane Stupid spokesperson, Joe Ryle said:

"Aviation remains the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions in the UK and we cannot let this go unchallenged. However the heart of this debate is about our fundamental right to protest and whether we are prepared to tolerate greater disruption to business as usual in the face of climate change."

Campaigners remain defiant after Manchester airport protest sentencing

Campaigners from the ‘Manchester Airport on Trial’ group were sentenced today after a 2 day trial at Trafford Magistrates’ court. The judge recognised the “sincerity” and “laudable motives” of the protesters, and handed down lenient sentences of 2 year conditional discharges and £310 in court costs each. One defendant received 80 hours of community service. The 6 campaigners stood trial for an action last May 2010 where they formed a human circle around the wheel of a Monarch Airline jet. All 6 pleaded not guilty to the charge of aggravated trespass, stating that they acted out of necessity to prevent the higher crime of climate change.

In November 2009 Manchester airport received planning approval to expand the World Freight Centre at Manchester Airport, which will result in the demolition of local homes and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Although the coalition government cancelled plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, campaigners are now focussing their action more regionally as capacity is now being increased at regional airports instead.

Martin Eakins, local councillor, described the local efforts to prevent expansion at the Airport. In response to the judge’s suggestion that campaigners would have had a strong case for judicial review of the plans, he explained that they had been refused funding on the basis that their challenge would be unsuccessful. Local resident, Pete Johnson, whose home on Hasty Lane faces demolition, told the court that their “efforts were thwarted by politicians with vested interests,” and that he felt “angry, frustrated and cheated.”

Over the 2 days the court has heard from many leading public figures who spoke out in defence of the ‘Manchester Airport on Trial’ group. On day one, leading scientist, Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research in Manchester, spoke out on the aviation industry’s ‘special treatment’. The aviation industry receives £9 billion a year in tax subsidies. Dr Geoff Meaden spoke on the impacts of climate change in the North West. Today public health expert Dr Robin Scott spoke on the health impacts of climate change. Expert witness statements were also read out including one written by John Mcdonnell MP who was a vocal politician in defeating the third runway at Heathrow airport.

People from across North England have now pledged to continue taking direct action to stop the expansion plans. The threatened homes in Manchester have ‘twinned’ with the village of Sipson which would have been demolished to make way for the Heathrow expansion.

Speaking after the ruling one of the 6 defendants Iain Hilton, said: 

“Whatever the outcome was today, this climate court trial will not be the last. Climate change is accelerating at the same rate as it was before and continues to be the biggest threat to life as we know it. We have heard in court peer-reviewed Science, public health advocates, witness statements from MPs and we have heard from communities whose homes are threatened by airport expansion plans at Hasty Lane. We will not wait for the judicial system to act. Civil disobedience is a duty and a responsibility and we will continue to act to stop climate change”.

John Mcdonnell MP said:

“When governments themselves so blatantly ignore the wishes of the people they are elected to represent, when they promote the sectional interests of one sector of business above the interests of their citizens, when they deny Parliament an effective role, when they subvert their own democratic planning processes, and when their actions so dangerously contradict their own legislation on climate change, responsible citizens are left with no alternative but to take direct action to further the cause that they believe in.”

Scientist Kevin Anderson said in court:

“Why is it fair that aviation continues to be a special case while every other sector has to reduce their emissions? Every year we have an exponential increase in CO2 embedding us in a future of dangerous climate change. If aviation continues to grow that means we’re heading for 4 degrees, but that would only be a transient temperature on the way to an equilibrium rise of 6 to 8 degrees. A rise of 4 degrees is dire, above that it gets worse and worse- it is a future that we contemplate at our own peril.”

Verdict to be today in Manchester Climate Trial

After a fantastic day yesterday, we've just got news that the judge will announce his verdict at 2pm this afternoon on the six defendants in the Manchester Airport on Trial case.
 
It's a bit earlier than we expected, but we're really hopeful for the right outcome. With the strength of arguments from our panel of expert witnesses, we're sure the judge can't help but be convinced!
 
Yesterday we heard from Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, whose testimony on the effects of climate change and the role played by aviation emissions was as terrifying as it was inspiring. He told us that "every day we are reducing the chances of living a reasonably liveable future," and that only if we take action now can we hope to keep global warming to anything resembling manageable levels. You can read his full report, as submitted to the court here.
 
Today Martin Eakins, Lib Dem councillor in Manchester, told the court how local councillors voted unanimously against the expansion plans but were totally ignored by the owner of the airport, Manchester City Council. Local resident, Pete Johnson, described the proposed demolition of his family home - you can read more about the threat to the Hasty Lane community on the Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport blog:
http://stopmanchesterairport.blogspot.com. Hasty Lane's been twinned with the village of Sipson at Heathrow, who finally triumphed over similar plans to bulldoze their village by Heathrow airport last year
 
We'll let you know more from court as soon as we hear, and blog more about the testimonies of all the witnesses. Thanks for all your messages of support!