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Facing court was worrying and anxiety provoking – Just Stop Oil protester

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Dear Editor,

In a London court in March, I awaited the verdict for a criminal charge of wilful obstruction of the road.

The charge arose from a sit down protest in October 2022 with other Just Stop Oil protesters near the Natural History Museum. The action was designed to raise the media profile of the need to stop new oil and gas licences. What better place to have this action than next to a museum concerned with extinction.

I do not list road blocking as one of my hobbies. At the time I was working in the NHS and nearing retirement. But in July 2022 our government was found guilty by the high court of breaching the Climate Change Act for an inadequate and unlawful net zero strategy. I felt I had to do something. Campaigning and petitioning was falling on deaf ears; whilst the clamour from scientists on the urgency needed to reduce greenhouse gases was (and still is) growing louder. I felt our children’s futures were in jeapardy whilst the government continued with “business as usual” by issuing new oil and gas licences.

Facing court for me was worrying and anxiety provoking. It is daunting standing in front of the Crown Prosecution. But I had never wanted to plead guilty. The right to protest allows us to challenge injustices. Protest takes place in the public eye and is often in London, because it is at the heart of where decisions are made.

Thankfully, on the day, the evidence was in our favour and the judge found us not guilty, thereby upholding our right to protest. We were overjoyed.

But since 2022 our government has made the laws on protest even more restrictive with tougher sentencing. Ultimately my action on that day was not about me but about speaking truth to power. Why are we leaving our young people risking prison rather than focusing on what we, as a society, need to do to avert catastrophic temperature rises.

Lesley Mackinnon,

Stroud

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