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Jury convicts environment protesters ‘with regret’ over Canary Wharf train stunt

The three members of Extinction Rebellion glued themselves to a Docklands Light Railway train in April.

The activists targeted a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station in April (PA)
The activists targeted a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station in April (PA)

By Emma Bowden, PA

Three Extinction Rebellion protesters who glued themselves to a train have been found guilty “with regret” by a jury in the first crown court trial linked to the environmental demonstrations.

Cathy Eastburn, 52, Mark Ovland, 36, and Luke Watson, 30, were convicted at Inner London Crown Court after halting Docklands Light Railway services at Canary Wharf station.

The trio denied the charges of obstructing an engine or a carriage using a railway on April 17 this year, claiming the stunt was justified because of the threat of climate change.

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The trio had claimed their actions were justified due to the threat posed by climate change (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Watson, of The Street in Manuden, Essex, and Eastburn, of St Gerrards Close, Lambeth, both climbed on top of the train carriage and glued their hands to the roof, while Ovland, of High Street in Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, glued his hands to the side.

After one hour of deliberations, the jury unanimously found the defendants guilty on Wednesday, but the foreman added it was “with regret”.

Extinction Rebellion (XR), an activist group whose protesters are urging government action on climate change, claims the trial was the first to be dealt with by a crown court as opposed to a magistrates’ Court.

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Police attended the scene at the east London station in April (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The trio were released on unconditional bail and will be sentenced for the charge contrary to Section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861 by Judge Silas Reid at the same court on Thursday.

They were arrested during two weeks of demonstrations organised by XR which brought parts of London to a standstill.

Following the verdicts, Judge Reid thanked the jury and said it was not the “usual case in Crown Court”, adding that most defendants do not come “for such noble purposes”.

The judge indicated that a conditional discharge was possible, telling the jury: “I don’t see at the moment that there’s any possibility of any of these defendants going back to prison.”

In her closing speech to the court, Eastburn, who said she spent a week in prison on remand following the incident, compared the action to raising the alarm when your house is on fire.

During the trial, the trio said the disruption was kept to a minimum by targeting a station with multiple platforms so trains could be diverted through another platform.

Eastburn and Watson held a banner emblazoned with “climate emergency” as they stood on the train’s roof, while Ovland held a sign which said he was super-glued alongside: “Do not pull me!”

Watson said in his closing statements that the group had warned the relevant authorities of their actions beforehand, and had chosen a station that was above ground to avoid unnecessary distress.

But their actions were condemned by frustrated public transport users at the time who were forced to find alternative routes.

PA

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