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'First' climate activist successfully prosecuted over latest Extinction Rebellion protests escapes fine

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 23/04/2019 Ella Wills
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A young man who is believed to be the first climate activist successfully prosecuted over the fresh wave of Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests has been spared a fine.

Elliott Cuciurean was the youngest of four XR supporters who appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, with the eldest being 70.

Cuciurean, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs after pleading guilty to a public order offence, but he avoided a fine of up to £1,000.

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In a jovial and mild-mannered scene, three other protesters who later appeared together before District Judge Devinder Sandhu denied separate charges and face trial this summer.

Meanwhile, XR's action over man-made climate destruction is continuing despite more than 1,000 arrests and 74 people being charged since the protest began on April 15.

Hundreds who were arrested have been released under investigation.

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The allegations under Section 14 of the Public Order Act faced by the four who appeared in court on Tuesday all follow a similar pattern.

Misba Majid, prosecuting, said Cuciurean's order was imposed in Oxford Circus on Saturday after he caused a "great deal of disturbance" to tourists and shoppers by being chained to another activist.

The breach came the following day with his second arrest when he continued to protest in Parliament Square despite being ordered to contain his action to Marble Arch, where the protest is permitted.

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Judge Sandhu sentenced him to a six-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £85 in costs to the CPS and a £20 victim surcharge.

"This country has had a longstanding respect for the rights of people to protest," she told the activist.

"But when it crosses into criminal law then the courts have to take action."

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Godfrey Whitehouse, a 70-year-old retired energy manager at Exeter University, and Tristan Strange, 37, were arrested on Waterloo Bridge, while University of East Anglia student Saul Kenrick, 22, was detained near the Houses of Parliament.

Kenrick was supported in court by his policy adviser father, Justin, who told the Press Association he was arrested three times over the past week but is yet to be charged.

"I'm very proud at the fact he's willing to say this is a completely intolerable situation we're in, heading towards climate extinction," the 59-year-old father from Edinburgh said.

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The protest has drawn supporters from a wide cross-section of society, ranging from young and elderly citizens to Hollywood actor Emma Thompson and former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

In court, Mr Whitehouse, a bespectacled veteran activist, had to cup his ear to hear the judge between exchanging friendly words with Kenrick, who had bleached blond hair, and Strange, who smiled and waved to supporters.

After polite discussions with staff in order to not offend the judge, activists sitting in the public gallery quietly held up fluorescent XR flags as Cuciurean appeared in the dock alone.

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Strange, of Swindon, Whitehouse, of Exeter, and Kenrick, of Norwich, are expected to rely on a human rights defence when they go on trial at Hendon Magistrates' Court on June 28 for the summary-only offence they could be fined over if convicted.

They were released on bail on the condition that they do not rejoin any protests at Oxford Circus or Waterloo Bridge.

Outside court, Cuciurean said it was "quite a relief" to avoid a fine and that he plans to rejoin the sanctioned protest at Marble Arch.

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Asked what led him to activism he said: "Seeing the news of climate science coming to the surface and realising that we are having an incredibly damaging impact on the planet and watching nothing being done about it."

The CPS said it was not aware of any successful prosecutions over the latest XR protest ahead of Cuciurean's plea.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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