Just Stop Oil activists avoid jail despite breaching High Court injunction

Just Stop Oil activists avoid jail despite breaching High Court injunction by blocking motorway petrol station

  • The group of five all admitted breaking terms of a civil order granted by councils
  • Hearing in London today heard that they sat in road and blocked petrol station
  • Four of the five were handed four-week sentences suspended for two years 
  • Dr Patrick Hart was given a sentence of four months suspended for two years  

A group of Just Stop Oil activists have today been spared jail despite breaking a High Court injunction by blocking a motorway petrol station.

The five, Ruth Cook, 70, Joy Corrigan 71, Dr Patrick Hart, 36, Stephen Jarvis, 66, and George Oakenfold, 78, all admitted breaking terms of a civil order that was granted to Thurrock Council and Essex County Council.   

The injunction was secured in May by local authorities in order to ‘restrain unlawful acts of protest’ in their areas. These included forbidding blocking any petrol station and interfering with deliveries or refuelling, the court was told.   

Today, a hearing in London heard that the environmental protesters sat in the road on August 24 and and prevented entry to an Esso petrol station at Thurrock Motorway Services in Grays, Essex.  

A judge was also told that Dr Hart, who is an NHS GP, caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to 16 pumps, using a hammer and spraying them with orange paint. The case involved a ‘deliberate flouting of a court order’ and the harm caused was ‘not lessened’ by protesters having ‘conscientious motives’, according to Mr Justice Bourne. 

The court handed Ms Cook, Ms Corrigan, Mr Jarvis and Mr Oakenfold a four-week sentence suspended for two years, on the condition that they did not breach injunctions again. Dr Hart received a sentence of four months, suspended for two years on condition he committed no further breaches, and was also ordered to pay a £2,000 fine.

The five, Ruth Cook, 70, Joy Corrigan 71, Dr Patrick Hart, 36, Stephen Jarvis, 66, and George Oakenfold, 78, all admitted breaking terms of a civil order that was granted to Thurrock Council and Essex County Council. Pictured (L-R): Dr Patrick Hart, Ruth Cook, Joy Corrigan and Stephen Jarvis

The five, Ruth Cook, 70, Joy Corrigan 71, Dr Patrick Hart, 36, Stephen Jarvis, 66, and George Oakenfold, 78, all admitted breaking terms of a civil order that was granted to Thurrock Council and Essex County Council. Pictured (L-R): Dr Patrick Hart, Ruth Cook, Joy Corrigan and Stephen Jarvis 

In court, the judge said that he accepted the protesters’ assurances they would not breach the injunction again. He said that when suspending their sentences he had taken their ‘good character’ and ‘open and candid approach to the court’ into account. 

Natalie Pratt, for the councils, said in written submissions that protesters, part of a larger group of 11 people, had ‘blocked, slowed down, obstructed or otherwise interfered with vehicular access’ at the petrol station between about 5.18am and 6.56am.

Elsewhere, Dr Hart had also ‘obstructed or otherwise interfered with the refuelling of vehicles’ at the location.  

Ms Pratt argued that the activists’ ‘pre-mediated, intentional and wilful’ breaches had caused harm although the councils ‘do not doubt the sincerity’ of the activists’ beliefs.  

The ‘harm’ caused included interfering with people’s ability to refuel at the petrol station which was blocked off for about 90 minutes.  

Mr Oakenfold, from Bristol, pictured outside court, said Just Stop Oil's demand for 'no new fossil fuel extraction' was 'moderate'

Mr Oakenfold, from Bristol, pictured outside court, said Just Stop Oil’s demand for ‘no new fossil fuel extraction’ was ‘moderate’

Ms Pratt said that Dr Hart’s actions went far beyond peaceful civil disobedience and crossed the line into wilful law-breaking beyond that necessary and acceptable in the expression of his sincere moral beliefs.

She said that the cost of repairing the pumps was £9,376.27 and that the forecourt was not fully operational until 6pm the next day.   

The barrister added that the temporary closure of the forecourt led to lost profits of £1,146.06.   

Ms Pratt said that the wider road network was not affected by the actions of the protesters and that police had confirmed none of the activists glued themselves to the road or ‘locked-on’ to anything.

The protesters, who were unrepresented by lawyers, told the judge they felt it was their duty to highlight the risks of climate change through protest.

Ms Cook, a training company managing director from near Frome, Somerset, said people were ‘in denial’ that they were ‘heading for a climate catastrophe’, and warned of potential mass migration due to global warming.

The 70-year-old, who is a Quaker and grandmother, said that ‘urgent and substantial Government action is required.’ She argued that her protest was ‘limited, targeted’ and ‘entirely reasonable.’  

Pictured: Just Stop Oil activists block off a petrol station during one of their protests

Pictured: Just Stop Oil activists block off a petrol station during one of their protests 

Meanwhile, Ms Corrigan, a carer from Highworth, Wiltshire, said that there seemed to be ‘never-ending’ reports of climate chaos throughout the world. She added: ‘We have to do something about it, how else could I look my grandchildren in the eye?

‘Our request to stop new oil licences is not a huge request.’

Mr Oakenfold, from Bristol, said Just Stop Oil’s demand for ‘no new fossil fuel extraction’ was ‘moderate’.

Speaking about his three children, he said: ‘I regret bitterly that I don’t think that they will be able to just enjoy living in this world as I have done because of climate change.’

Dr Hart, a GP of 12 years from Bristol, said: ‘The best available evidence tells us that we are on course to lose everything that we care about, to destroy our country and our future.’

He said he had caused ‘negligible’ harm to a company worth ‘many hundreds of billions’.

The 36-year-old said that the group’s non-violent, civil protest actions were ‘the last line of defence’ between ‘a liveable future where the rule of law ensures safety and guarantees rights for all of us or a future of absolute chaos and misery’.

Elsewhere, Mr Jarvis, from North Devon, accused the Government of ‘enabling the oil corporations to continue making obscene profits’ and was ‘in breach of its own responsibility to keep its citizens safe’.

He claimed injunctions are used ‘primarily to protect the oil industries that are killing us and crush legitimate and vital protest against Government policies’.

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