Blind Paralympian James Brown released from prison following sentencing appeal

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The Court of Appeal has ruled today that James Brown, the blind Paralympian who climbed on top of an aeroplane in October 2019, be released on bail.

James, who is serving a 12 month sentence at Wandsworth Prison, will be released later today or tomorrow morning. 

Judgement on both sentence and conviction will be delivered at a future date. The panel of three judges sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice today was led by the Lord Chief Justice (the most senior judge in England and Wales).

James Brown’s solicitor Raj Chada, from Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “I’m delighted by the result. What happened today is a win for the right to protest and the principle that peaceful protesters should not be sent to prison.”

James Brown, speaking on the phone from Wandsworth Prison, said: “Whatever the Appeal Court’s final judgement, to be getting out of here and going home is the best news. Since my conviction, many people have written to say that they have been inspired to step up, take bold action and make a stand.”

James Brown outside Southwark Crown Court. Credit: Helena Smith

James’ action was part of Extinction Rebellion’s occupation of London City airport on 10th October 2019 in protest against aviation expansion and the climate impacts of flying. [1]

During his trial at Southwark Crown before Judge Gregory Perrins earlier this year, James Brown told the jury he feared for his children’s future and that civil disobedience was the only option left to him. He told the court: “I want all the children of our world to grow up free from the impact of starvation, war and the other horrendous impacts of the climate crisis. That’s not going to happen. Their future is terrifying.”

During his career, James competed in several athletic categories and won two gold medals for Great Britain at the 1984 New York Paralympics. He denied he had caused a public nuisance. 

Extinction Rebellion’s occupation of London City Airport was designed to highlight the climate impact of air travel. The most energy-intensive activity an individual can undertake, no other human activity consumes as much energy in such a short time. Mile for mile, flying is the most climate-damaging way to travel. [2]

Extinction Rebellion has a number of cases going through the Crown Courts. James’s was the fourth jury trial, and followed the acquittal in April 2021 of six people for criminal damage to Shell’s London HQ, despite all but one having no defence in law. [3]

In July this year, the UK government published its Jet Zero strategy to achieve net zero in the aviation industry by 2050. [4] Air travel is an elite activity. Only a tiny percentage of the global population can afford to fly and they have a disproportionate carbon footprint. Taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year. [5]

The government has repeatedly been advised by its own Climate Change Committee (the CCC) to limit the growth of aviation in the next 10 years, starting with a halt to airport expansion. The government’s suggestion, in its Transport Decarbonisation Strategy, that the public can continue to fly since aviation will be carbon neutral by mid-century have been widely ridiculed. The government has recently proposed a reduction in Air Passenger Duty Tax whilst the industry is already estimated to be subsidised by £7bn per year. [6]

The news comes as the PCSC Bill, which has been widely criticised for seeking to limit the right to protests, returns to the House of Lords for amendments. A vigil calling on the Lords to ‘protect our right to protest’ organised by the Kill the Bill Coalition, and supported by XR, will be held in Victoria Tower Gardens from 5pm this evening. [7]

For more information contact Zoë on 07918165046

MULTI-MEDIA ASSETS 

Complete folder here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1zMK0RFoydtDiHgI-stAxwn7u_wsZh6OX

Video

Photos

Portrait of James Brown outside Southwark Crown Court, July 2021

James Brown sitting on top of the plane 

James Brown lying on the plane having glued on 

Archive of XR’s occupation of London City Airport, 10 October 2019

Notes to editors

[1] The City Airport occupation was intended to peacefully disrupt ‘business as usual’ and highlight the incompatibility of City Airport’s half a billion pounds planned expansion with a liveable future. 

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/jul/19/carbon-calculator-how-taking-one-flight-emits-as-much-as-many-people-do-in-a-year

[3] Since April 2019, around 2000 people have been prosecuted for offences related to Extinction Rebellion protests, primarily the Rebellions in April 2019, October 2019 and September 2020. The vast majority have now concluded, however there are still a handful of trials following the August 2021 Rebellion. Most XR prosecutions are for minor offences like obstruction of the highway or unlawful assembly (Section 14) and are heard in the magistrates courts. The standard sentence is a conditional discharge for 6-12 months or a small fine, along with court costs of a few hundreds pounds.

There have also been calls for the courts to cease the criminalisation of peaceful climate protesters acting to help safeguard all our futures. Peter Hain (former Secretary of State For Northern Ireland for Work and Pensions and for Wales) calls for a halt to XR prosecutions. Scientists open letter to governments to stop criminalising climate campaigners.

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/achieving-net-zero-aviation-by-2050

[5]

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/17/people-cause-global-aviation-emissions-study-covid-19

https://theconversation.com/these-celebrities-cause-10-000-times-more-carbon-emissions-from-flying-than-the-average-person-123886;

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200218-climate-change-how-to-cut-your-carbon-emissions-when-flying

[6] 

https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/letter-international-aviation-and-shipping/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57830168

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/opinion/climate-crisis-boris-johnson-cop26-b1888067.html

https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/01/aviations-7-billion-subsidy-per-year-in-uk-needs-to-be-dropped/

[7] https://fb.me/e/21sSrMYnz

Further information on the climate impacts of aviation 

‘Aviation emissions could triple by 2050 according to ICAO’ – https://www.c2es.org/content/international-civil-aviation-organisation/

‘Passenger numbers forecast to double by 2037 (pre covid)’ – https://www.iata.org/en/pressroom/pr/2018-10-24-02/

1% of people create 50% of flight demand globally’ – https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/17/people-cause-global-aviation-emissions-study-covid-19

In the UK 15% of people create 70% of demand’ – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/comment/tax-domestic-flights-should-raised-not-reduced/

‘Aviation fuel (Kerosene) is exempt from global tax’ – https://simpleflying.com/eu-jet-fuel-tax/#:~:text=In%201944%2C%20a%20global%20agreement,it%20lands%20in%20another%20country.

Shell aviation coined the term ‘Sustainable Aviation Fuel’ but it is nothing more than greenwash with the view to sell unsustainable Biofuels –https://www.shell.com/business-customers/aviation/the-future-of-energy/sustainable-aviation-fuel.html https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Aviation-biofuels-report-ES.pdf

International Aviation and shipping emissions are excluded from all state national determined contributions (NDC’s) under the Paris Agreement – https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publications/2018_05_Briefing_NDCs_and_Paris_agreement.pdf

‘Total-aviation caused climate heating is 3 times that of CO2 alone. The industry wants us to believe that aviation accounts for only 2% of global emissions. Aviation emissions currently account for 5.9% of all human-caused global heating (2018 data)’ – https://stay-grounded.org/get-information/#impact

Aviation could take up roughly a quarter of the total carbon budget by 2050′ – https://www.carbonbrief.org/aviation-consume-quarter-carbon-budget  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37573434

CEO of Rolls Royce ‘But today the industry faces a real challenge. If demand for air travel grows in line with current projections, and other sectors are able to decarbonise more quickly, emissions from the aviation industry will grow significantly as a proportion of the total. Under some scenarios, this could approach 25% in a couple of decades – and even sooner if the world moves faster and we do not. – https://www.rolls-royce.com/media/our-stories/insights/2020/aviation-must-go-low-carbon.aspx

‘Over 80% of the world’s population have never even stepped foot on an aircraft’ – https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/07/boeing-ceo-80-percent-of-people-never-flown-for-us-that-means-growth.html#:~:text=Boeing%20CEO%3A%20Over%2080%25%20of,re%20leveraging%20that%20for%20growth&text=%22Mad%20Money%22%20host%20Jim%20Cramer,company’s%20sky%2Dhigh%20growth%20prospects

UK government’s own advisors have told them to start preparing for a 4 degrees warmer world – https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2020/06/25/committee-on-climate-change-advises-government-to-prepare-for-apocalypse/

1.2 billion climate refugees forecast by 2050 – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/09/climate-crisis-could-displace-12bn-people-by-2050-report-warns

3 billion people live in ‘wet bulb’ temperature zone at 1.5 degrees of warming – https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/climate/climate-change-heat-tropics.html

‘at 4 degrees of warming vast parts of the African continent will be uninhabitable and Spain will look like a desert’ – (please see infographic) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/18/climate-crisis-heat-is-on-global-heating-four-degrees-2100-change-way-we-live

ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

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