Greta Thunberg and four others charged with public order offences over a protest in London have been cleared after a judge ruled they had no case to answer.
Thunberg was charged alongside Christofer Kebbon, Joshua James Unwin, Jeff Rice and Peter Barker with “failing to comply with a condition imposed under section 14 of the Public Order Act”.
They had been taking part in a protest outside the InterContinental hotel in Mayfair, the venue for the Energy Intelligence Forum (EIF), a fossil fuel industry summit attended by corporate executives and government ministers.
All were arrested after the senior officer at the scene imposed the section 14 order to impose conditions on the protest, which had blocked access to and from the hotel for guests and EIF delegates.
At the conclusion of the prosecution case on Friday, the second day of their trial at Westminster magistrates court, Judge Laws agreed the crown had failed to present enough evidence to prove their case.
Raj Chada, representing Thunberg, Kebbon and Unwin, had argued that his clients had not had the details of the section 14 order properly communicated to them by their arresting officers.
In each case, Chada said: “It is unclear as to what the condition was or what was communicated, and so what the defendants should know or didn’t know; and so the prosecution case fails at this stage.”
Going through the evidence of each arresting officer in turn, Chada argued each had failed to properly communicate the details of the condition placed on the protest. In the case of Kebbon, the officer told him he was being arrested for section 14 “obstruction”; and in the cases of Unwin and Thunberg, officers gave incorrect details of the location to which the order redirected protesters.
“In relation to Miss Thunberg, [the officer] was asked [while giving evidence] specifically about what the condition was, and he said Piccadilly Place,” said Chada.
“Does that exist?” asked Laws.
“Not on the map we have,” Chada replied. “It is not the condition. Whatever it is it is not the condition.
“We say for good measure that the condition that was in the charge is not the condition that was communicated to the officers’ supervisors. But our primary submission relates to that which was communicated to each of the three that I represent, which does not meet what the charge says, simple as that.”
Earlier, the officer who arrested Thunberg, told the court he did not take into account her media profile when giving her time to comply with a restriction placed on the protest she was attending.
PC David Lawrence said he knew who the high-profile Swedish activist was when he approached her to instruct her to comply with the order.
Lawrence said he had been called to the protest and asked to enforce the section 14 order that had been made by the senior officer at the scene.
“We moved into the crowd and started telling people to move their protest on to the pavement,” Lawrence told the court.
“I spoke to a few people initially, and then we approached a group in the centre of the crowd. I initially spoke to a female and she left; after that I spoke with Thunberg. I asked what her intentions were and asked if she wished to remain and she would be arrested, and if she wanted to leave and continue her protest on the pavement.
“She replied in words, by saying: ‘I’m staying.’ I then informed her that she would be arrested and removed from the area.”
Laws said he arrested Thunberg because “she was breaching a section 14 public order notice”.
Under cross-examination by Chada, Lawrence admitted he did not know the precise location to which protesters were being asked to relocate.
After Lawrence indicated he knew who Thunberg was, and her media profile, Chada asked him: “Did you take into account the photographers and the ease with which she can move?”
“We had officers moving them [the photographers] out of the way,” Lawrence replied, adding that another woman he had asked to move had been able to leave without difficulty.
Pointing out that that individual did not have the same public profile as Thunberg, Chada asked Lawrence: “Did you give any account to that to allow her more opportunity to move, any further time?”
“Any further time? No,” Lawrence replied.