Obstructing the Railway - Guilty: 19/12/19

Court date



Inner London Crown Court

Hearing date:


16 - 19/12/19

Bench (DJ or JPs)


Judge Silas Reid and Jury

Charged with:


Obstructing the railway (DLR) - Section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861 by

Represented by:


Legal teams dismissed part way through trial by the defendants, who then became self repping

Please outline prosecution and defense case(s).


Day 1

First day, before the jury was called into court, was dominated by a discussion as to whether the defence of necessity could be put to the jury. Judge decided that it could not, as the offence was neither reasonable nor proportionate: as a matter of public policy the court must regulate what can go forward to the jury as evidence. The remoteness of the risk to persons amounts to an attempt to change policy. Even taking defence case at its highest, and assuming that these things (ie CC) will happen sooner rather than later, action not reasonable. Not focussed enough. It would open the floodgates. Cannot be left to a jury. Defence argued that on the remoteness argument, jury has to decide on reasonable.


Day 2

Ruling at 10am on Day 2. Defence of necessity does not arise in this case. It cannot apply where the law is broken. Laudable aims, but can’t commit criminal offence to achieve them. Therefore defence of necessity cannot be put to the jury ass it does not arise from the facts of this case.


The defendants dismissed their legal teams at this point and became self-represented defendants. Heavy warnings from judge that their evidence may be circumscribed, as the offences are admitted.

Defendants 1 and 3 -. Action was a lot less disruptive than appears – a 10-minute delay to passengers. Carefully planned to minimise disruption while maximising raised awareness. The station at Canary Wharf was chosen because it is above ground and has three platforms. DLR incurred no costs from the action.

Defendant 2 - We were sounding the alarm, this was not a protest. I have absolute duty to save my children, I shouldn’t be prosecuted for doing my duty as a mother. This was the right thing to do. Station functioned as normal, far less disruption than in July with buckled rails. Yet it was effective. We need govts and corps to act – all I can do is sound the alarm.


Final day of the trial, day 4.  Defendants had been found guilty on 18/12/19.

Sentencing – mitigation:  The defence for each of the defendants provided mitigation circumstances.  The overlapping charges were dealt with in the first barrister for defendant no.3.  Key points were:

  • Sentencing should take into account the time spend remanded in custody 7, 10 and 12 days.
  • Court cost should be proportional and should take into account the fact that the trial should have been dealt with at the magistrates court and had only progresses to the higher court and trial by jury because LFL and DLR had inflated the costs and the disruption at the original hearings. Originally it was claimed that 56 train journeys had been disrupted with a knock-on effect across the transport system in London.  In fact only 8 journeys had been affected. The action was specifically timed to cause minimal disruption and two tracks and platforms remained open allowing trains to operate. Initially it was claimed that there had been around £100,000 lost between TFL and DLR (not exactly sure about this number.  This was revised to £20,000 penalties to be paid by DLR and these cost were subsequently withdrawn and costs to DLR were eventually revised to £0.  It was there for argued that for this reason the trial should have taken place at the Magistrates court. 
  • The Judge accepted this but made the point that the defendants wanted to go to trial, which was not denied.
  • All defendants were claimed to be of good character apart from their arrests for climate actions.  However, each defendant had one earlier charge taken into consideration.
  • The defence mentioned the fact that both Mary Carney and Sir David Attenborough, amongst others, had drawn attention to the environmental and financial costs of climate change.   The judge accepted the facts that the defendants had acted in the belief that they were protesting for the public good and was minded that defendant no.2 had expressed sincere concerns for her own children. 
  • Defence reminded the Judge that defendant no.3 had not expressed any intention to commit more offences.  The Judge accepted this but stated that the three had expressed no remorse and defendant no2, had reiterated this fact on the BBC the day before.  This was not challenged.
  • Judge gave heavy directions to the jury that belief and motivation not relevant. They must accept his ruling/directions on the law. There is no defence by way of reasons or motivation.
  • Brief retirement before jury returned guilty verdicts ‘with regret’.


Judge summing up before sentencing.

  • He took into account their time remanded in custody and decided they had been punished enough.
  • He took into account that they believed they were acting in the public good.
  • However he made the point that the court was there to uphold the law and they had broken the law as it stands and on that basis he had to find them guilty.
  • Based on the fact that they had spent time remanded in custody the Judge gave them a 12 month conditional discharge.
  • The prosecution had made a case for £3,500 costs.  Defendants 1 and 3 had asked for their limited financial circumstances to be taken into consideration and costs of £300 + £20 were levied. The full cost of £1,166 + £20 was levied on defendant no.2.  The judge did not mention or take into account the fact that the trial could have been settled in the magistrates court if the original cost of the disruption had been the true cost of £ zero.


  • The Judge asked that if an appeal was lodged, it should be done at the earliest possible date, in order for him to take into account any ruling that came out of the appeal, when considering similar cases that were coming to court in May and September 2020.


What was the verdict?



What was the sentence?


12 months CD

What costs were awarded?


Court costs were levied at £300 + £20 for defendants 1 and 3 and £1,66 + £20 for Defendant no.3.