Just Stop Oil activists guilty of public nuisance over Dartford Crossing protest

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Two Just Stop Oil protesters who scaled a bridge on the Dartford Crossing, causing gridlock when police closed the bridge to traffic, have been found guilty of causing a public nuisance.

Morgan Trowland, 40, and Marcus Decker, 34, used ropes and other climbing equipment to shuffle up the cables of the bridge, prosecutor Adam King told Basildon Crown Court, earlier in the trial.

He said they ascended to a point close to 200ft above the road and unfurled a “giant Just Stop Oil banner” and “rigged up hammocks and stayed there”.

The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which links the M25 in Essex and Kent, was closed from 4am on October 17 last year to 9pm the following day, the prosecutor said.

“This closure caused gridlock for miles around throughout that period, which we say was the point,” said Mr King.

He continued: “Small businesses lost, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of pounds, people missed loved ones’ funerals, children were left on the side of the road waiting for buses.”

He said the men came down at about 5.30pm on October 18 “with the help of police and a very tall cherry picker crane”, but the bridge was not reopened to traffic until later.

Mr King had told jurors: “We’re not here to litigate the Government’s climate change policy.”

Trowland had said in evidence: “We climbed it (the bridge) to deliver a warning message, to put up a banner saying Just Stop Oil and to speak that message through interviews with journalists.”

He said the activist group’s goal is to get the Government to stop licensing oil and gas production.

“That is putting fuel on the fire of climate change.”

Trowland, of Islington, north London, and Decker, 34, of no fixed address, denied causing a public nuisance.

They were found guilty by a jury by unanimous verdicts following more than two hours of deliberations.

Judge Shane Collery KC remanded them in custody to be sentenced on April 13.

He said: “This court is considering custodial sentences.”

He added: “We’re dealing with significant nuisance that’s been caused.”

“The right to protest cannot be allowed to outweigh the right of the law-abiding majority to go about their day free from selfish and antisocial disruption.

“We are cracking down on these guerilla tactics which cause misery for the majority.”

Sean Irish, of Just Stop Oil, said outside court that the verdicts were “quite disappointing”.

“Obviously it’s quite disappointing to see this happen,” he said.

“We’ve seen in the Old Bailey that a jury has the right to acquit based on a conscience, whether they were aware of that I don’t know, but it’s disappointing to see that they’ve come back with a guilty verdict.”

He said that the climate crisis was “more terrifying” than the prospect of prison time.

“Young people aren’t going to die for an oil baron’s profits,” Mr Irish said.

“We’re not going to lie down easily, we’re not going to take it, we will fight back.

“The more the government cracks down on peaceful protest, the more dangerous it becomes for the government.”

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