Image Credit: Just Stop Oil

BBC TV presenter and respected naturalist, Chris Packham, testified on Wednesday at the crown court trial of Just Stop Oil supporter, Cressie Gethin, from Hereford.

He has released a statement offering support for Cressie’s actions. 

Wednesday 14th February, marked the eighth day of Cressie’s trial for Public Nuisance.

She is appearing at Isleworth Crown Court, appearing before Judge Duncan. Cressie, 22, a music student from Hereford, faces up to ten years custodial sentence if found guilty.

The Prosecution claims that there were over 3000 people impacted, 26 flights delayed, and 19 flights cancelled at Heathrow. She is representing herself in court.

Cressie climbed a motorway gantry above the M25 on the 20th July 2022, two days after the governments’ net zero strategy was declared unlawful, and one day after the UK recorded its highest ever temperature of 40.3 degrees Celsius, a milestone that scientists previously thought was impossible. [1] [2] 

Before entering Isleworth crown court, Packham spoke to members of the media. He said: 

“Because of Cressie, and other Just Stop Oil protesters, I sat sweating on the M25. Was I inconvenienced?

Well, that’s a relative value. I was late to work, but my house was not burning down. I wasn’t drowning in a flood, displaced by famine, or separated from my family as a climate refugee.

I was just sat on the M25, a position that I and millions of others find themselves in every single day of the year. Not because of protesters, but because our traffic system is broken, overloaded or stalled due to a breakdown or tragic accident.” 

“So, I used my ‘inconvenience’ for good… I imagined the motives of the protesters, why they were taking such a physical risk and further risking imprisonment.

I imagined how scared they must have been hanging onto a gantry. I also thought about their message and how in a record-breaking heat wave – with our government’s Net Zero policy not fit for purpose – they should be commended for sounding a vital alarm. I reconciled that my ‘inconvenience’ was entirely justified.”

“I am attending court to support Cressie Gethin because I don’t think she is getting a fair trial. I think, along with the UN, that the UK’s protest laws and sentencing of protesters are unjust, draconian, and in conflict with our basic human rights.

I think we are witnesses to disproportionate vindictive witch hunts hell-bent on punishing some of the bravest individuals in society just because they are forced to struggle to tell the truth. These trials are shameful, demeaning, and undemocratic.

I set a challenge to the judge, the prosecution, and their witnesses… go home and tell someone you know: a son, daughter, nephew or niece who is under 25 what you have done today and then ask them if they are proud of you.”

Cressie is representing herself in court and cross-examined Chris Packham. She asked him:  

“Have you ever experienced another delay of this length?” 

Chris Packham replied: 

“Frequently – the M25 was built in the 80s or 90s – it’s known as a parking lot. As we speak, I bet people are sitting on the M25 now.” 

The Judge asked: 

“Why didn’t you leave 4 hours early today then?” 

Chris Packham responded:  

“I left last night.” 

Cressie gave her evidence to the Jury. This went as follows: 

“On 20th July 2022, I climbed up onto a gantry over the M25. I hung up two banners – one said ‘Just Stop Oil’ (the campaign in whose name I was taking action) and the other said ‘40 Degrees”’ (this was a day after the 40C heatwave scorched the UK, burnt down houses and left people dead).” 

“The prosecution have said that my intention was clearly to stop the traffic. However, it is under oath that I say I was not expecting the police to close the entire motorway.

I thought it was possible they may decide to close one or two lanes, or perhaps slow the speed of the traffic, but I was very surprised when they closed the whole thing.

I was surprised because I was conducting a nonviolent, peaceful protest, the intention of which was to gain media attention and create public pressure on the government to stop new oil and gas.” 

“I will also address the matter of delays at Heathrow. Whilst this may sound unbelievable, I did not realise that the stretch of motorway I was on led to Heathrow – as I say, this may sound ridiculous, but I am telling the truth under oath.”

“I want to make it clear that in no way did I feel a sense of glee or “yes, I’ve won” when the police closed the road. I understood that by closing the road the police would be having to manage traffic that would have otherwise come down that stretch of the motorway, and that didn’t and doesn’t sit easy with me.

The reason I didn’t come down goes back to my original intention to get the attention of the media and public, and ultimately, to address rather than ignore injustice and suffering.” 

“There was a moral dilemma involved in taking this action. I knew there was a possibility that the action would impact some people – that is the nature of visible and attention-grabbing protest.

I had to weigh this, which doesn’t sit easy with me, against my sincere desire to protect lives. As I said at the beginning, my overall intentions were and still are to create pressure on the government to writing policies that are killing people around the world.” 

The trial is ongoing. Updates will continue to be published by Just Stop Oil.