Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Heathrow 13, a group of green anti-flight activists who were convicted of cutting the perimeter fence and disrupting flight operations, at one of the busiest airports in the world, will not face jail – unless they do it again.
According to The Guardian;
Six women and seven men have avoided jail for trespassing at Heathrow, following a protest against the possible expansion of the airport.
The activists, dubbed the Heathrow 13, were given sentences of six weeks suspended for 12 months, meaning they would not have to go to prison immediately.
They had been found guilty in January of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome. They had been warned by district judge Deborah Wright to expect a custodial sentence.
A loud cheer went up as the defendants left the dock. Outside the court, one of them, Danielle Paffard, said: “I’m so relieved. It’s a triumph for democracy, a triumph for the movement.” She said that while the sentence meant she was banned from Heathrow for a year, others would continue protesting against the third runway.
This ridiculously light sentence seems a continuation of Britain’s developing tradition of extraordinary leniency towards green protestors. Greenpeace protestors who were accused of causing £30,000 of criminal damage to a British coal station in 2008, were found not guilty – the court accepted their climate defence.
What sort of message does this leniency send to investors, if their British investments might attract attention from green groups?
Britain desperately needs to attract more investment into their creaking energy infrastructure. Many British airports, roads and railways also need substantial upgrades. But green fanatics oppose any form of investment which might lead to increased CO2 emissions.
Even if investors are prepared to brave Britain’s notoriously fickle, high risk energy policy landscape, will they also be prepared to face unconstrained green activism? How can investors be confident the law will protect their property, when green fanatics believe they won’t be punished, even if they cause substantial criminal damage?
Worse, this apparent green license to flout the law potentially weakens Britain’s security. Imagine a terrorist breaking into Heathrow, or even a nuclear reactor, to conduct reconnaissance for an attack; if they are caught, perhaps all they have to do is claim to be a green activist, to avoid a custodial sentence.