Extinction Rebellion activists cleared by jury over rush-hour train protest

Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, Father Martin Newell, 54, and Philip Kingston, 85, have been acquitted of obstructing the railway.

Father Martin Newell and Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, outside Inner London Crown Court (Victoria Jones/PA)
Father Martin Newell and Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, outside Inner London Crown Court (Victoria Jones/PA)

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

Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, Father Martin Newell, 54, and former university lecturer Philip Kingston, 85, were unanimously acquitted by a jury at Inner London Crown Court of obstructing the railway following their protest at Shadwell Station on October 17 2019.

Mr Kingston super-glued his hand to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train while Rev Parfitt and Father Newell climbed on the roof and said prayers for the planet, shortly before 7am.

The trio 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.

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 which was one stop away from Bank, in the City of London’s financial district.

Extinction Rebellion protester Phil Kingston who has glued himself to a DLR train at Shadwell in east London (Max Kara/PA)s
Extinction Rebellion protester Phil Kingston who has glued himself to a DLR train at Shadwell in east London (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 measures including targeting a station above ground and having 10 more Extinction Rebellion activists on the platform to ensure violence did not break out.

The verdict comes after four people were cleared of criminal damage over toppling the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and throwing it in the harbour.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century figure was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 7 2020, and those responsible were acquitted on January 5 following an 11-day trial at Bristol Crown Court.

And in April last year, six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors they had no defence in law.

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