around world An environmentalist known as “Just Stop Oil” was sentenced to six months in jail for participating in a slow march around the globe.
A person advocating for environmental issues has been imprisoned for half a year after admitting to participating in a nonviolent slow march demonstration on a road in London.
Stephen Gingell, 57, was given a sentence that is believed to be the first imprisonment under a recently passed law. This law has been criticized for holding anyone who walks on a road responsible for potentially causing disruption to important national infrastructure.
Section 7 of the Public Order Act 2023 prohibits actions that hinder the use or operation of newspaper printing presses, power plants, oil and gas extraction or distribution sites, harbours, airports, railways, or roads. Violators may face up to 12 months of imprisonment.
Gingell, a father of three from Manchester, was one of about 40 supporters of Just Stop Oil who spent about 30 minutes marching on Holloway Road in north London at about 4pm on 12 November, the climate campaign group said.
In a hearing at Wimbledon magistrates court, he admitted to violating section 7 and was sentenced to six months at Manchester magistrates court on Thursday.
Just Stop Oil has been campaigning since 2022 for the UK government to stop all new fossil fuel production. The campaign’s “guerrilla tactics” were cited by the Home Office when it introduced the Public Order Act’s tough new anti-protest measures to parliament.
In late October, authorities began implementing section 7 to address the demonstrations organized by Just Stop Oil. During a series of peaceful marches carried out by the group between then and December 4th, 470 individuals associated with the group were detained a total of 630 times. Approximately half of these detentions were made under the recently enacted law.
According to a representative from the campaign, the recently implemented Section 7 of the Public Order Act 2023, which was created by the fossil fuel industry, was introduced in April by Priti Patel. This law specifically addresses actions that disrupt or hinder the functioning of important national infrastructure. It appears that the government has now deemed walking on public roads and highways as a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.
“How many fathers will be imprisoned before those planning to kill us are stopped? New oil and gas will see millions upon millions lose their homes, livelihoods and lives. Protected by the government, by failed politicians, by the police, those committing genocide continue to walk free, those protesting the killings are banged up. Whose side are you on?”
Liberty, a human rights organization, denounced Gingell’s punishment. Katy Watts, a lawyer for Liberty, expressed concern over the severity of the sentences given to protesters. She stated that it is alarming to witness such harsh punishments and believes it is a result of the government’s desire to discourage individuals from speaking out for their beliefs. This law is unnecessary and extreme, and only serves to silence individuals and allow the government to avoid accountability.
The right to protest is a basic entitlement, not a privilege granted by the government. It is the responsibility of the government to uphold our right to protest, rather than treating it as a punishable offense.