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Insulate Britain activists jailed after telling judge: ‘We won’t stop’

The five activists said a prison sentence would not stop them raising awareness of the climate crisis

Anita Mureithi
21 April 2023, 11.47am

A file image of a 2021 Insulate Britain protest in central London. 'Prison is not a deterrent, merely a pause,' said protesters who have been jailed for five weeks


Justin Tallis/Contributor via Getty Images

Five Insulate Britain activists have been jailed for five weeks after vowing to keep taking part in disruptive protests.

Reverend Mark Coleman, 63 and Catherine Rennie-Nash, 72 were handed prison sentences at Inner London Crown Court yesterday after being found guilty of causing public nuisance by blocking major roads during their campaign of civil resistance in 2021.

They join Alyson Lee, 64, David Nixon, 36 and Christian Murray-Leslie, 79, who were all sentenced in the same court on Tuesday.

In both hearings judge Silas Reid asked the defendants about their future plans and whether they intended to continue protesting, adding that their answers would determine whether they would be sent to prison. All five said they had no plans to stop.

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Left to right: Alyson Lee, David Nixon, Christian Murray-Leslie, Reverend Mark Coleman and Catherine Rennie-Nash


Denise Laura Baker/Insulate Britain

Coleman told the court he acted “to protect human life, to draw attention to the death and destruction caused by rising emissions and the impacts of cold damp homes on the health of the citizens of our country.”

He continued: “In the ordination service priests are told that they should ‘resist evil, support the weak, defend the poor, and intercede for all in need’. For me of course it has moral authority. Poor people are more likely to die prematurely. I have tried to be true to my ordination vows. I see it as part of my vocation as a priest, to continue to resist until the government acts. I expect that this civil resistance will involve sitting on the public highway again.”

Rennie-Nash said: “It is my duty and responsibility to act in the best way I know how, to try to help prevent my grandchildren inheriting a difficult and deadly future.”

Coleman and Rennie-Nash appeared before the court with five other protesters, Daphne Jackson, 73, Stephanie Aylett, 28, Beatrice Pooley, 65, Simon Reding, 50, and Helen Redfern, 58.

Aylett, Reding and Redfern were given sentences of between three and six weeks, suspended for 18 months, while Jackson and Pooley were ordered to do community service of 60 hours over 12 and 18 months.

In the sentencing earlier this week, Nixon told Reid: “I will start by making clear that I will be continuing on, I will continue to take action that may lead to my arrest and potential imprisonment. Prison is not a deterrent, merely a pause.

“I am justified in doing this as we are facing an existential threat to humanity, and our government is actively making things worse. It’s abhorrent, it needs resisting. I am right in my actions.”

Nixon had already spent four weeks in prison in February after being handed an eight week sentence for defying Reid’s ban on citing the climate crisis and fuel poverty as his motivation for taking part in road-block protests. Two more Insulate Britain protesters were jailed in the weeks that followed after mentioning the climate crisis to a jury.

Lee also vowed to keep taking to the streets, telling Reid: “As soon as the opportunity arises I will be back out there doing what I can to raise the alarm and force the government to act appropriately in this existential crisis.”

The retired teaching assistant added: “This awful, surreal situation demands a lot more than usual protest – it demands civil resistance.”

I am at peace with my conscience and believe history will judge me to have done the right thing...

Murray-Leslie echoed this, and said the protesters had an “overwhelming moral justification” for their actions.

“I am at peace with my conscience and believe history will judge me to have done the right thing as I sought to prevent greater harm,” he said.

“Your honour, you will have heard that my wife does not enjoy the best of health. I believe I have a duty to support her, however I also have a duty to our grandchildren and others’ children and grandchildren to do absolutely everything that I can to try and prevent irreversible climate change, whilst there is still time.

He continued: “As you may suppose I have talked at length to my wife, who is a brave and moral person. She will not stand in my way as she realises that what I am doing is right. So I have to tell you that I cannot commit to stopping.”

Lee, Nixon and Murray-Lesley will serve half of their sentences before being released. A fourth activist was also sentenced. Kai Bartlett, 21, was given a community service order that includes 80 hours of unpaid work.

Delivering his sentence, Reid told the protesters the “net effect of all the protests was zero” and questioned why the group would wish to continue their campaign of civil disobedience.

Reid referred to all four as “people of good character, apart from protest” and added that “good people sometimes do bad things”.

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