Appeals judges cut sentence for airliner climate crisis defender

A former Paralympic athlete has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after superglueing himself to the roof of a British Airways plane at London City Airport to draw attention to the climate crisis, with appeals judges reducing his sentence to four months. till has been cut.

Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown of Exeter, Devon, was jailed by a judge at Southwark Crown Court in September after pleading guilty to causing public nuisance.

Lawyers representing Brown, who has been registered blind by birth, challenged his conviction and sentence at a Court of Appeals hearing in London in December.

Three appeals judges, Lord Burnett, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Goss, ruled on Friday that the 12-month prison term should be reduced to four months.

He rejected his appeal against the conviction.


Protesters block road outside City Airport during a climate change protest during Extinction Rebellion (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

All three judges said at the appeals hearing that Brown, who is in his late 50s, could be released on bail until his verdict was delivered.

He imposed a bail condition which barred him from entering any airport where commercial flights operate.

Lawyers representing Brown said there was no reason to accuse him of causing public nuisance, questioned the proportionality of the decision to bring charges, and said he could have been charged with serious trespass.

He also told the appeals judges that the detention was not justified on the facts of the case.

Lawyers argued that the 12-month period was “clearly disproportionate” and said that Brown faced “unique hardship” in prison because of his disability.


James Brown atop a plane in the morning of 10 October 2019, protesting the flight over London City Airport (Extinction Rebellion / PA)

Judge Gregory Perrin, who imprisoned Brown, sent his sentence after the hearing, saying he “reprehensiblely used” his disability and “risked his life” to perform a stunt at London City Airport on October 10, 2019. in” put.

The double gold medalist boarded the plane, which was destined for Amsterdam, before sticking her right hand on the plane and locking her mobile phone in the door to prevent it from taking off.

He livestreamed the protest until they were removed after an hour.

Brown, whose family is from Belfast, represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before representing Ireland in cross-country skiing.

Southwark Crown Court heard that flights of 337 passengers were cancelled, costing the airline approximately £40,000.

Brown, who represented himself at his trial, denied one count of causing public outcry, claiming he had to “do something spectacular” to draw attention to the climate crisis.

But he was found guilty after the jury deliberated for less than an hour.

Lord Burnett said in a written ruling that those who caused major disruption at airports and were convicted of causing public nuisance were at “a great risk” of going to prison.

But he said appeals judges had considered whether the 12-month prison term was “apparently excessive” in light of Brown’s conduct, antecedents and incompetence.

He added: “Taking into account all the circumstances, we have concluded that the punishment should be one of four months’ imprisonment.”

Lord Burnett said the judges’ “starting point” took into account the “impact” of Brown’s conduct as well as the “widespread intention to require widespread disruption and detention”.

He continued: “The right to peaceful protest should not lead to a tolerance of behavior that veers away from expressing a strongly held conviction but instead seeks to cause as much anarchy and as little harm as possible to members of the public.”

Lord Burnett said the judges had concluded that Brown’s sentence was not “unsafe”.