Nine activists from Insulate Britain jailed for breaching High Court injunctions have been ordered to only pay half of National Highways’ ‘excessive’ claim for legal costs, judges have ruled.
The protesters were sentenced on Wednesday after they admitted breaching an injunction by taking part in a blockade at junction 25 of the M25 during the morning rush hour on October 8.
Ana Heyatawin, 58, and Louis McKechnie, 20, were jailed for three months, while Ben Buse, 36, Roman Paluch-Machnik, 28, Oliver Rock, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, and James Thomas, 47, received four-month sentences.
Ben Taylor, 37, was given a longer sentence of six months ‘to deter (him) from committing further breaches’ after his submissions to the court on Tuesday were described by Dame Victoria Sharp as ‘inflammatory’ and a ‘call to arms’.
The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Chamberlain, said there was no alternative to custodial sentences given that the group’s actions were so serious and they had made it clear they intended to further flout court orders.
Myriam Stacey QC, representing National Highways, previously said the legal costs of the proceedings were just over £91,000 and she asked the court to order the protesters to pay.
Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Chamberlain ordered each of the activists to pay £5,000 towards National Highways’ costs, making a total of £45,000.
Nine Insulate Britain eco zealots were jailed at the High Court after admitting breaching an injunction on protesting
Protesters from Insulate Britain blocking the M25 at junction 31 back on October 31 this year
But in a written judgment after the hearing, the two judges ruled while it was fair to get the jailed activists to pay some legal fees, National Highways’ claimed costs were ‘excessive’.
They found National Highways’ fees included sums for advice from two senior barristers, four junior barristers as well as extra fees for three barristers.
‘Even bearing in mind the need to consider relatively extensive evidence… we consider that these costs were excessive,’ Dame Victoria said.
The two judges also said it was not ‘reasonable’ for three solicitors to attend the High Court hearing.
Six of the nine Insulate Britain activists at the High Court in London for sentencing on Thursday
Insulate Britain activist Ben Taylor (left, being led away in handcuffs from the High Court in London), 27, was jailed for six months after boasting he would immediately block the motorway again if not imprisoned. Taylor is pictured shouting – and while what he said was inaudible, photographers said he appeared to be shouting encouragement towards his supporters. Meanwhile Roman Paluch-Machnik (right, also pictured ), 28, was among six of the activists jailed for four months
How Insulate Britain made a mockery of the law over two months
September 13 – 78 Insulate Britain protesters arrested after blocking junctions 3, 6, 14, 20 and 31 of the M25
September 15 – More than 50 protesters arrested after targeting junctions 1, 8, 9 and 23 of the M25
September 17 – 48 protesters arrested after targeting junctions 3, 9 and 28 of the M25, as well as the M3
September 20 – 29 protesters are arrested after blocking the M25 at junctions 4 and 18, as well as the A1
September 21 – Protesters risk death by running into moving traffic to block the carriageway near Junction 10. Some 38 arrests are made. National Highways obtains an injunction against further protests on the M25
September 22 – Protesters burn copies of the injunction outside the Home Office, blocking the road outside the ministry. No arrests are made
September 24 – 39 protesters arrested after blocking roads at three locations in Dover. They are all released under investigation. National Highways obtains a second injunction covering Dover.
September 27 – 53 protesters are arrested for blocking a slip road at Junction 14 of the M25. They are all released under investigation.
September 28 – National Highways says it is taking ‘legal advice’ over how to enforce its injunction
September 29 – 27 protesters are arrested for blocking a roundabout at Junction 3 of the M25 on two occasions
September 30 – Protesters return to junction 30 at Thurrock in Essex, and nine are arrested
October 1: The group block the M4 at junction 3, the M1 at junction 1 and M25 at junction 25. Some 39 arrests
October 2: Third injunction bans them from obstructing traffic and access to motorways and major A roads in and around London
October 4: 38 arrests after protesters block three major roads in London – the Blackwall Tunnel, Wandsworth Bridge and A40 and North Circular at Hanger Lane.
October 8: 19 arrested over protest at Old Street roundabout and a further 16 on the M25 at junction 24. Transport for London gets a High Court injunction to ban them from obstructing traffic in 14 locations in London.
October 13: Protesters return to the M25 at junction 31 and a nearby industrial estate, with 35 people arrested.
October 25: Activists target areas around Southwark Bridge, Canary Wharf and Liverpool Street station. Some 53 are arrested.
October 27: Protesters blockade the A40 in North Acton, West London, and a major roundabout next to the Dartford Crossing in Kent. Kent Police arrested 32 protesters, while the Metropolitan Police detained 17.
October 29: 10 activists are arrested after walking onto the M25 between junctions 28 and 29 in Essex
November 2: Police arrest 20 activists before they can even get onto the M25 at junction 23 for South Mimms, but other actions take place on the M56 in Manchester, with 11 arrests, and the A4400 in Birmingham
November 4: Some 62 protesters sit down at Parliament Square in Westminster
November 17: Nine of the protesters are jailed at the High Court for between three and six months
‘We would expect the claimant to enter into a dialogue with the defendants about how this liability is to be discharged,’ the judges concluded.
Insulate Britain has said it intends to continue the protests, which have sparked anger among motorists and others affected by the blockades, until the Government agrees to insulate homes.
The High Court has so far issued five injunctions to prevent protesters from blocking roads.
They include four injunctions granted to National Highways, banning demonstrations on the M25, around the Port of Dover and on major roads around London, and one to Transport for London (TfL).
TfL was granted a civil banning order aimed at preventing protesters from obstructing traffic on some of the capital’s busiest roads.
Those who breach the injunctions could be found in contempt of court and face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine.
Further committal proceedings are expected to be issued against other Insulate Britain protesters relating to protests on October 27.
It came as an Insulate Britain crowdfunding page that received more than £60,000 of donations has been removed following accusations of it ‘funding criminal activity’.
The activists, from an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, have caused chaos by blocking major roads since September 13.
Hundreds of protestors have been arrested at demonstrations on the M25, at the Port of Dover and on London’s road network despite High Court injunctions banning the group from all major roads in England.
An Insulate Britain fundraising page on Crowdfunder raised a total of £61,970 from 632 contributions in the 29 days since it was created.
The page claims the donations are to assist with ‘movement building, non-violent direct action training, back office costs and campaign materials and equipment’.
However, Crowdfunder has now prevented any further money from being donated to the campaign group.
In a tweet, Insulate Britain claimed the fundraiser was to end at 5pm on Thursday ‘due to pressure from the media’.
However, the move follows concerns over the legality of the donations, which appear to be in direct rules for fundraising by funding criminal activity.
Tom Barr, a Surrey resident delayed by Insulate Britain and who raised concerns about Insulate Britain’s funding page to Crowdfunder, said it was ‘obviously the funding of crime’.
He added: ‘Crowdfunder and the Fundraising Regulator are to be commended for taking prompt action on preventing what was obviously the funding of crime.
‘But it should not be for ordinary people to make this happen; the taxpayer supports generous salaries for the senior figures in authority that should be acting imaginatively, proactively and robustly to protect the public.’
A spokesperson for the Fundraising Regulator said Crowdfunder had not referred the page, but the watchdog did confirm that it is ‘in discussion with the platform about the general legal questions that have been raised’.
A statement continued: ‘Insulate Britain is a campaigning group made up of likeminded individuals and not a registered charity within the legal scope of the Charity Commission, nor does it fall within the Fundraising Regulator’s regulatory remit, as it is not a charitable fundraising organisation.
‘We work with 20 online fundraising platforms registered with us to develop standards and guidance, reflected in the Code of Fundraising Practice.
‘The Code makes clear the responsibilities of online platforms to ensure that fundraising activity carried out using their sites is lawful, and where it is charitable, complies with the Code of Fundraising Practice.’