Grandmother, 58, who staged one-woman eco-protest as part of Extinction Rebellion stunt is let off by judge… because she was upholding her human rights of expression
A retired teacher brought chaos to her home town with a one-woman protest – and was then let off by a judge.
Fiona Prior, 58, blocked one of the busiest roads into Carlisle as part of an Extinction Rebellion stunt. The grandmother sat on a stool in the road with a placard and was charged with wilfully blocking the highway. But in a sign that the courts are reluctant to tackle direct action groups, a judge found her not guilty.
At Carlisle Magistrates’ Court this week, District Judge John Temperley said it would not be ‘proportionate’ to convict her as she was upholding her human rights of expression.
The verdict comes after prosecutors were forced to review cases against Extinction Rebellion activists following a Supreme Court ruling that protests could be a lawful excuse to block roads.
Fiona Prior, 58, sat on a stool in the road with a placard and was charged with wilfully blocking the highway. But in a sign that the courts are reluctant to tackle direct action groups, a judge found her not guilty
However it was slammed by Carlisle’s Conservative MP John Stevenson, who yesterday said it set ‘a dangerous precedent’.
‘People should absolutely have the right to protest, but they should be doing so in a lawful manner,’ he said.
‘Her actions in my view could have caused danger to others by obstructing emergency vehicles from getting through, as well as preventing people going about their legitimate business.
‘While this was a small protest, the verdict would appear to give activists a licence to disrupt the lives of large numbers of people.
‘That’s fundamentally wrong in a democracy, so this does seem to be a dangerous precedent.’
Justifying her protest before her arrest, Miss Prior said: ‘Like most parents, when I had my kids 30 years ago, I assumed they’d live a better life than me.
‘But now I’m terrified for the future of my children and my six-year-old grandson.
‘We know the Government isn’t protecting us from the horrors of climate breakdown, so we have two choices.
‘Either we rise up or we don’t, and if we don’t then we’re complicit in the destruction of our children’s future. That’s why I’m sitting peacefully in the road.’
Prosecutors were forced to review cases against Extinction Rebellion activists following a Supreme Court ruling that protests could be a lawful excuse to block roads. Members of Insulate Britain, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion,
At one point during her 14-minute protest, a triangular warning sign she had placed on the road was grabbed by an angry bystander and tossed away, the Carlisle News and Star reported.
Finally two police officers arrested her, then lifted her from the road and took her to a police van.
Appearing at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court this week, she accused the Government of failing to take decisive action to tackle climate change.
‘Protest is my right,’ she said. ‘Over the years, I’ve handed out leaflets, and I have signed hundreds of petitions.
‘I have minimised my personal carbon footprint. But these approaches are just not enough.’