Climate change protester jailed for five weeks after blocking freeway traffic | UK News

A climate change protester has been jailed for five weeks after blocking traffic on the M4.

Stephen Pritchard, 63, was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court for his involvement in an Insulate Britain protest in 2021.

He was found guilty by a jury of causing a nuisance to the public when he and three other people stopped traffic at Junction 3 of the M4 on October 1, 2021, causing disruption to 10,000 vehicles.

Pritchard’s co-defendants – former probation officer Ruth Cook, 71, gardener Roman Paluch-Machnik, 29, and carpenter Oliver Rock, 42 ​​- each received six-week suspended sentences for 18 months provided they do not reoffend.

The three protesters were also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

Judge Silas Reid said Pritchard, a former parish councilor in Bath, was jailed because he told the court he would not stop participating in disruptive protests out of “conscience”.

The judge told Pritchard, “It is not appropriate for me to suspend the inevitable sentence … you will serve up to half your sentence in prison.”

The other three defendants said they were deterred from protesting in the future by their experiences in court and in prison.

Addressing the four defendants, Judge Reid said: “None of you have shown remorse for your actions and in fact wear them with pride.”

Insulate Britain said the protesters were the first to be found guilty of causing a public nuisance – a common law offense which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Pritchard, a former parish councilor in Bath, had previously used his speech in court before his sentencing to condemn an ​​order by Judge Silas Reid not to mention the climate crisis as an “amoral” and “irrational” motivation.

The judge told protesters to ‘focus on motivation as much as possible’ in their pre-sentencing speeches after deciding they shouldn’t mention their climate motivations during the trial.

Pritchard told the court he turned to protest action after ‘exhausting all other avenues’, including writing to his MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, signing petitions, leading development projects sustainability and by planting tens of thousands of trees.

He said he felt “overwhelming sadness” at the government’s “inaction” on climate change.

Pritchard told Judge Reid, “I think your decisions were amoral; I also believe that they were irrational given the situation in which we find ourselves.

“Human lives are being lost. The only possible way I can imagine stopping peaceful civil resistance in this context is for you to tell me that this country has stopped pumping greenhouse gases into the air .

“I know what prison is, having been there. It’s not a very pleasant place. But I feel like I’m already a prisoner of my conscience.”

Sky news

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