AN INSULATE BRITAIN SUPPORTER was sent to prison for eight weeks yesterday (7 February) after being convicted of contempt of court and refusing to apologise for telling a jury that fuel poverty and the climate crisis had motivated his actions. 

The offence was committed during the seventh trial relating to Insulate Britain’s 2021 campaign to demand that the government Insulate Britain’s cold and leaky homes.

When the five day trial began last week, Judge Silas Reid said that the four defendants could not, in their defence, refer to their motivations for blocking the motorway. As with earlier Insulate Britain jury trials, the defendants were each barred from referring to the climate crisis, insulation or fuel poverty during the trial. An additional restriction imposed was on any mention of the 1960s civil rights activists, the Freedom Riders.

David Nixon, a care worker from Barnsley was one of four defendants found guilty of causing a public nuisance by blocking the junction of Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street in the City of London on 25 October 2021.

On Monday 6 February, Nixon said that he intended to defy the judge’s ruling and tell the truth in court. He told the jury: “If I’d known at the time I sat on the road that nearly 18 months later, the arguments presented at trial would be about buses I’d have been disbelieving and yet here we are. The prosecution claimed that 8,500 people were disrupted by bus diversions on the 25th October 2021. They argued that that is significant and substantial. Coincidentally, in the year 2020, it was estimated that 8,500 people died over winter due to living in cold homes.”

As Judge Reid directed the jury to leave the court, Nixon continued: “We are talking about diversions in the face of death. That millions of people in the UK are living in fuel poverty, which is utterly shameful in 2023, that is what I class as significant and substantial.

“And that is before mentioning climate change. There are posters around the court saying ‘we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator’. Climate Hell. That is also why we sat on the road, to tell the truth about the direction we are heading in and prompt action before it’s too late.”

After the jury returned, Judge Reid told them to disregard Nixon’s statements and as no application was made for them to be discharged, he ruled the trial could continue.

At a brief hearing on 7 February at which he once again refused to apologise to the court, Nixon told Judge Silas Reid: “I’m at peace with my position even though there are consequences and I’m now in your hands. You will have to live with this moment in the future, you will have to live with your decisions.  I see what happened this week as a kind of climate action delay. Today BP announced record breaking profits and this is the same day that I’m in court because I’m not allowed to speak about climate change.

“When I was a care worker, young people would sometimes put themselves in a situation where they were unsafe but they would lash out and I would have to physically intervene to keep them safe. Sitting on the road is like that. It’s not nice but I want to keep people safe. And what I did yesterday was similar. I broke the court rules but to highlight what is going on.”

“The judiciary at the moment is not protecting life. I’m trying to uphold the rule of law because, if tipping points are breached and we don’t have a stable climate like the one we’ve had for 10,000 years, the rule of law won’t survive when people are hungry”

The trial concluded and while the jury considered their verdict, Nixon was convicted of contempt after declining two offers from Reid to apologise to the court, telling the judge: “I wish I could but I don’t think it would be genuine.”

Nixon was sentenced to eight weeks in prison for contempt of court, of which he will serve four. Nixon, along with Kai Bartlett from Shrewsbury, Alyson Lee from Derbyshire and Christian Murray-Leslie from Derbyshire, will appear again for sentencing on 24 March and they have 28 days to appeal the conviction. The maximum penalty for the common law offence of public nuisance is life imprisonment.

Alyson Lee, a retired teaching assistant said: “We were not allowed to speak the truth in court about the misery and suffering of millions of families having to choose between heating and eating in the sixth richest country in the world or about the fact that we are hurtling towards climate collapse. The judiciary is complicit in the government’s genocidal death project. They should refuse to prosecute ordinary people in nonviolent civil resistance. I refuse to be a bystander, even if I end up in prison for standing up for what is right.”

Two other trials relating to the same roadblock action have already taken place. In December, three defendants were acquitted of public nuisance charges, while last week four defendants were found guilty.

In the six previous Insulate Britain jury trials for public nuisance charges, two trials so far have resulted in acquittals, two have resulted in a guilty verdict and two have been deferred. The first Insulate Britain jury trial was deferred until June 2023 after the Judge dismissed the jury and asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider whether proceeding with the trial was in the public interest.

The Crown Prosecution Service has chosen to summon a total of 56 supporters to answer at least 201 charges of Public Nuisance across at least 51 jury trials, the last of which is scheduled to begin on 4 December 2023. These trials are planned to be heard across Inner London, Hove, Lewes and Reading Crown Courts and it is estimated they will take up around 1,428 hours of court time.

* Source: Insulate Britain