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King’s Court: Just Stop Oil – How Many Times will this Activist Group Appear in Court Before Something Changes?

Courtesy of Photography Lead Emma Carmichael

Staff writer Lily Powell considers whether the activism landing Just Stop Oil supporters in court is leading to the intended results or if it simply signals heartache for all involved.

While they are no strangers to headlining the news, October 30, 2023, was an eventful day for the activist group Just Stop Oil who saw 65 arrests being made on the first day of their most recent protest within 30 minutes of their march commencing in Parliament Square and sentences being handed down in the Royal Courts of Justice to mark the dim view the law has taken on their protest activities.

Just Stop Oil are the first group to be the subject of an arrest under Section 7 of the Public Order Act 2023. Their newest tactic is to encourage members to march slowly outside parliament, breaking the law with action “which interferes with the use or operation of any key national infrastructure in England and Wales”.

On the same day as the arrests, 12 Just Stop Oil supporters were sentenced for contempt of court for breaking an M25 injunction. After a 5 day civil hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Theresa Norton and Mair Bain received suspended sentences after admitting to having prior knowledge of the National Highways Injunction. 

The other ten supporters were found to not have any prior knowledge and received no penalty from the court. This marks the first group of supporters who have been presented before the High Court accused of breaking the National Highways Injunction granted in November 2022. 

Theresa Norton said in a press release statement, “[t]he system is rigged, it was no surprise to be found guilty, [and] it is designed to be that way. More than ever we need to unite in civil resistance against a government intent on making genocidal decisions like issuing 100 new oil and gas licences.”

This is just another in a line of court cases that Just Stop Oil have been subject to this year, with group members having been sentenced by the courts only days prior.

On October 24, the trio of Just Stop Oil protesters who invaded Lord’s Cricket Ground on June 28, interrupting the play and causing a delay of 4 minutes, were sentenced to a 12-month community order, including 60 hours of unpaid work and were ordered to pay £330 in trial costs and £114 victim surcharge. They had been on trial accused of aggravated trespass, having obstructed or disrupted a person engaged in a lawful activity and were found guilty.

Just Stop Oil activists are familiar with seeing the inside of courtrooms, but are they seeing the changes they want?

In a press release statement, Just Stop Oil claims that the action of bringing the activists to court “demonstrates our courts are not protecting the ordinary people of this country, but defending those making profit by killing people.”

It seems that the public have reached their limit with Just Stop Oil action, especially in cases where the distinction between the right to lawfully protest and disruptive protests which negatively impact the lives of Londoners is blurred. 

Through their efforts to persuade the UK government to stop agreeing to new fossil fuel projects, most commonly through the medium of protests, the Metropolitan Police has had to spend £7.7m to attend the 515 protests held in London by Just Stop Oil.

Just Stop Oil shows no sign of stopping anytime soon as they encourage everyone to join them in marching in London this November until the government ends projects related to new oil and gas. October 29, 2023, marked the beginning of Just Stop Oil’s 3 week action plan to march everyday in London until they win. The group have made it clear that they accept the risk of arrest, by continuing to march when police direct them to stop.

While it certainly seems to be catching the attention of the general public and police, the question remains whether it is bringing about any change or merely disrupting the lives of many.

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