Prison for a former Paralympic athlete who stuck to the roof of the plane
The former Paralympic athlete who stuck to the roof of a British Airways plane during an Extinction Rebellion protest has been jailed for a year.
James Brown, 56, who has been registered blind since birth, managed to climb the plane on the morning of October 10, 2019 to stage an anti-theft protest at London City Airport.
The two-time gold medalist, from Exeter, stuck his right hand to the plane that was bound for Amsterdam before stuck his cell phone in the door to prevent it from closing.
Brown, born in Northern Ireland, who represented Great Britain in cycling and track and field before representing Ireland in cross-country skiing, spent an hour on the plane before being fired.
Prosecutors said it caused disruption to more than 300 British Airways passengers, costing the airline £ 40,000.
Brown, who represented himself at his trial, denied one count of public nuisance, saying he had to “do something spectacular” to draw attention to the climate crisis.
But he was found guilty by Southwark Crown Court in July after a jury deliberated for less than an hour.
Judge Gregory Perrins sentenced him to 12 months in prison on Friday, half of which he will serve.
He told Brown: “The right to protest doesn’t entitle you to cause major and widespread disruption at a major airport… just because you think it’s the right thing to do.
Judge Perrins said: “This is a case in which you acted with at least 10 other activists to plan and execute a major act of disruption.
“You intended to cause as much disruption as possible at the airport, if not to shut it down completely. “
The judge told “accomplished athlete” Brown: “You cynically used your disability to put your plan into action,” adding, “You are putting your own life in danger by climbing to the top of the plane.”
He said he accepts that Brown is motivated “by a desire to make a change which you truly believe is in everyone’s best interests” and that there must be a “sense of proportionality” when sentencing of those who commit offenses during a demonstration.
But he told Brown there was “no right to more lenient treatment” because he was protesting the environment.
The court heard that Brown had booked his flight on the morning of the stunt and was offered boarding assistance due to his disability.
He had a bottle of superglue in his luggage that had not been detected by security, prosecutor Richard Witcombe told the jury during Brown’s trial.
Brown declined a cabin crew member’s offer to help him sit up, telling him he was going to climb onto the roof of the plane.
Giving evidence, he cried as he told jurors, “I was ready to challenge myself, to be afraid, to face the fear, because the fear of ecological degradation of the climate is so much greater. “
In a moving speech, Brown, a married father of four, who runs a charity, said: “My protest, the goal I hope is clear, my motivation was to maximize media attention on the climate crisis, which at the time was hardly receiving any.
Tim Maloney QC, defending Brown at his sentencing hearing, said: “He has expressed his intention to no longer be involved in an illegal protest.”
Mr Maloney said Brown had “overcome the obstacles to lead a successful and inspiring life”, participating in five Paralympic Games and becoming a successful businessman.
“There is so much more to his life than athletic excellence,” he said, describing Brown’s career as a math teacher before working for Gloucestershire County Council in disabled children’s services .
He also built a conference center aimed at meeting the needs of people with disabilities and created Mobiloo, a company that provides facilities for people with disabilities at festivals and events.
Raj Chada of the HJA law firm, the firm representing Brown, said he would appeal the conviction.
“We are shocked that James has been sentenced to 12 months in prison.
“James, a registered blind and five-game gold medalist Paralympian, should not be in jail for participating in this event.
“This is a dangerous judgment for our right to freedom of expression, our right to protest and for those who campaign on environmental issues. “