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Just Stop Oil activists convicted for protesting at World Snooker Championships

Just Stop Oil activists convicted for protesting at World Snooker Championships

Two Just Stop Oil activists have been found guilty of organizing a protest at the World Snooker Championships which disrupted a match for 24 hours.

Domestic energy advisor Eddie Whittingham, 26, was found guilty at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on Friday of causing criminal damage after jumping on the table and releasing an orange powder.

He told a judge his actions were “reasonable and proportionate in light of the greater threat we face from the climate crisis”.

His protest companion, former museum worker Margaret Reid, 53, was found guilty of attempting to cause criminal damage following the one-day trial.

A district judge was shown television footage of Whittingham interrupting a match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry on April 17, 2023 at the Crucible Theater in Sheffield.

Wearing a Just Stop Oil T-shirt, the defendant could be seen releasing the orange substance – which he claimed was dyed cornstarch powder – and kneeling among the bullets on the table before being transported by security.

The clip shown on court then showed Reid attempting to do the same thing on another table before being tackled by referee Olivier Marteel.

Just Stop Oil campaigner Margaret Reid outside Sheffield Magistrates’ Court in January (Pennsylvania)

Whittingham denied causing £899.90 of damage to a pool table owned by the Xingpai company, and Reid denied attempting to cause criminal damage.

But they were both found guilty of the offenses by District Judge Daniel Curtis on Friday afternoon. They will be sentenced later.

Giving evidence on Friday, Whittingham told the court he bought a ticket about a month before the incident, admitting it cost him more than £300 because he wanted to be in a good position in the auditorium.

He said he planned the protest to draw attention to Just Stop Oil’s campaign to change the government’s policy on oil and gas extraction, which he said “violates the law “.

Whittingham said: “I didn’t intend to cause damage, I intended to cause disruption. »

He said he accepted there was a “risk” of damage, adding that he believed it was “highly possible that (the powder) could be wiped or vacuumed up without causing significant damage to the felt or Table”.

Asked by Alison Goldsmith, the prosecutor, whether he foresaw the risk of damage to the table, Whittingham said: “I judged that risk to be proportionate in light of the existential threat we face in due to the climate crisis. »

He acknowledged that his actions caused inconvenience to those who were present to “peacefully enjoy” and to the tournament organizers, who had to abandon play for the day on the table he was targeting.

But the defendant told the district judge: “I consider this to be reasonable and proportionate in light of the greater threat we face from the climate crisis. »

He told the court he minimized the disruption caused by not strapping himself to the table and complied with security and police requirements once he left the table.

During her testimony, Reid cited her long experience as a conservator in the museum sector, saying she believed any powder could have been easily removed without causing damage.

She described it as an “unpleasant and scary thing to do” but said she had been driven to commit an “outrageous and disruptive act like this”.

Reid said she had “no other effective options” to end the “pain, death and misery” that climate change would bring.

She said: “We need to come out of our stupor. We need a shock. We need action like the one we took to get us out of the pot.

Just Stop Oil activist Eddie Whittingham arrives at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court (Pennsylvania)

She said she had protested “politely” in the past, voted and written to her MP, but “it didn’t work”, adding: “What can ordinary, powerless individuals do?

She continued: “I did not intend to cause criminal damage. I decided to draw attention to the dire situation we find ourselves in.

Asked about the impact of her actions on people who had paid to watch a snooker match, the accused said: “I’m really sorry for that, but I was really aware that those same people would be much more affected by the impact of fossil fuels.”

Both men were released on unconditional bail and will be sentenced at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on July 10.