Ten Greenpeace activists who forced a tanker carrying £30m worth of Russian diesel into a U-turn on the River Thames have been acquitted of aggravated trespassing, and a judge declared Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine “could be described as terrorism”.
The defendants, aged between 27 and 72, claimed they were “preventing a crime” by occupying a jetty at Navigator Terminals in Grays, Essex, preventing the vessel from unloading.
District Judge Christopher Williams, who delivered his sentence at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Friday, said: “I think it is more than likely that the Russian war could be described as terrorism.”
All 10 defendants had denied and were acquitted of a single charge of obstructing or disturbing a person engaged in lawful activity under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The charge said they invaded land at Navigator Terminals and blocked the pier, obstructing or disrupting “a lawful activity, namely the distribution of fuel.”
Henry Blaxand KC, defending, questioned whether the dumping of Russian diesel was a legal activity, with the judge saying “in my opinion the dumping of oil was the potential offence”.
The protesters broke into applause and there were cheers when the judge found them not guilty.
Greenpeace activists (left to right) Lyndall Stein, Mike Grant, Ben Hearne-Salter, Henry Rayner, David James, Rhiannon Wood, Kim Harrison, Benji Bailes, Ian Mills and Zoe Pontida outside Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court, Essex, before his trial for blocking a jetty at an oil terminal in Grays, Essex. All were acquitted by a judge on Friday.
Andromeda, a Greek-registered oil tanker, arrives in the River Thames to unload 33,000 tonnes of Russian diesel 24 hours late after Greenpeace members delayed its unloading on May 10.
All 10 defendants had denied, and each was acquitted, of a single charge of obstructing or disturbing a person carrying on a lawful activity under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
Prosecutor Monali Ralerasker argued that the case “did not require an analysis of what is morally right and what is morally wrong.”
But the judge said it was ‘arguable that offenses were committed under the Terrorism Act 2000’, and that ‘the activity which the defendants disrupted was precisely what they were protesting’.
Protesters took two dinghies to access the jetty from the riverbank late on May 15 this year.
The activists adhered to the structure and displayed a banner that read ‘oil fuel war’.
The tanker Andromeda, flying the Greek flag and carrying Russian oil, turned around in the Thames in the early hours of May 16.
One of the activists who scaled the boardwalk, former Lt. Col. Michael Grant, 62, told the court: “The purpose of the action was to draw attention to the fact that fossil fuels were being imported and thus funding Putin’s war.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Grant said: ‘This is a fantastic result.
One of the Greenpeace activists pictured as the group stopped a tanker truck carrying 33,000 tonnes of Russian diesel from docking in Essex.
“This verdict is not just a relief to us, but a complete vindication of the ethical beliefs that led us to act.”
Another of the activists, Professor Zoe Pontida, described it as a ‘seismic verdict’.
The 32-year-old said: ‘Not only does it fully vindicate our action, it also puts the UK government in the dock.
“The judge has recognized that we are ordinary people whose conscience forced us to stop the oil financing of Putin’s campaign of state terrorism in Ukraine.”
Those charged were: Benji Bailes, 38, of Gloucester; Michael Grant, 62, of Rosewell, Midlothian; Kim Harrison, 38, of Oldham, Greater Manchester; Benjamin Hearne-Salter, 41, of Kashmir Road, south London; David James, 62, from Bromfelde Road, south London; Ian Mills, 56, of Chippenham, Wiltshire; Zoe Pontida, 32, of Oxford; Henry Rayner, 28, of Ivanhoe Road, south London; Lyndall Stein, 72, from Surrey Row, south London; Rhiannon Wood, 27, from Hedge End, near Southampton, Hampshire.