A WELSH pensioner is one of three Extinction Rebellion activists cleared over a 2019 stunt which saw them cause disruption to a central London train. 

Former university lecturer Philip Kingston, 85, along with Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79 and Father Martin Newell, 54, were unanimously acquitted by a jury at Inner London Crown Court of obstructing the railway following their protest at Shadwell Station on October 17 2019. 

Mr Kingston super-glued his hand to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train while Rev Parfitt and Father Newell climbed on the roof and said prayers for the planet, shortly before 7am, causing 77 minutes of disruption. 

The trio said they were strongly motivated by their Christian faith, while Mr Kingston said the futures of his four grandchildren also prompted him to take part in the protest. 

In what they said was an attempt to appeal to the public and the Government about the dangers of climate change and the financial institutions whose actions damage the planet, they targeted a train which was one stop away from Bank, in the City of London’s financial district. 

READ MORE: Kill The Bill: A call to action against 'terrifying' law

Some 15 trains were delayed or cancelled but none were stuck in tunnels. 

This was partly because, according to the activists, they had planned the demonstration to ensure there was no risk to public safety, by taking measures including targeting a station above ground and having 10 more Extinction Rebellion activists on the platform to ensure violence did not break out. 

Mr Kingston gave evidence at the trial yesterday and told the court he worked as a lecturer at Bristol University for 27 years, and he had been employed as a probation officer before this. 

He is from south Wales and now lives in Patchway, south Gloucestershire.  

In 2019, after he had taken part in the Extinction Rebellion protest, Mr Kingston told The Mirror he felt his wife, who had died 25 years earlier, would have supported his climate activism. The couple married at St Paul’s Catholic Church, Cardiff in 1960. 

“I hope to achieve the attention of fellow citizens and also of the Government, who I believe are responding quite inadequately to the huge dangers we are facing in regard to the climate and I wanted to draw attention to that,” he told the jury yesterday. 

He said the “safety of passengers was the primary consideration” of the group’s planning ahead of the stunt. He was as certain “as humanly possible” that no-one would be put at risk. 

When asked whether, if the safety of passengers had been in question, he would still have proceeded with the stunt, he said: “No, not at all.” 

He added that initially passengers reacted angrily, but after he spoke with those nearby, “the anger subsided and they were beginning to engage”. 

READ MORE:

Prosecuting, Edmund Blackman said that reaching a guilty verdict may be something jurors do “with a heavy heart” but argued that the protesters “went too far in what they did”. 

He told the jury: “The target was the Dockland Light Railway. It wasn’t, for instance, the headquarters of Shell or Barclays bank. 

“They targeted a public transport system used by ordinary people and which runs on electricity. 

“Using public transport is an environmentally friendly thing to do. You might think that targeting the DLR was rather incongruous with the point of their protest.” 

Defence lawyer Owen Greenall countered that since Shadwell station is one stop away from Bank the protesters were “targeting the infrastructure that supports the financial institutions of the city” and the protest was carried out “in a safe manner”. 

Following the verdict Mike Schwarz, solicitor at the law firm Hodge Jones and Allen which represented the defendants, said: “There is mounting evidence from the courts and in particular from juries that the public is taking the climate crisis and the increasingly urgent need to focus on it far more seriously than government and business. This verdict is part of this escalating pattern.”

READ MORE: 

Today’s verdict comes after four people were cleared of criminal damage over toppling the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and throwing it in the harbour. 

The bronze memorial to the 17th century figure was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 7 2020, and those responsible were acquitted on January 5 following an 11-day trial at Bristol Crown Court. 

And in April last year, six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors they had no defence in law. 

Additional reporting: Twm Owen

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.