Climate change protesters face jail time for damages to Barclays

A group of climate protesters have been found guilty of causing criminal damage after smashing the windows of the London headquarters of Barclays bank.

The seven women each denied the charge but were convicted of the Canary Wharf incident on 7 April 2021.

They said they broke windows to “raise the alarm” about the climate.

Prosecutor Diana Wilson told Southwark Crown Court the women could receive sentences ranging from community orders to 18 months in prison.

Carol Wood, 53, from Swansea; Nicola Stickells, 52, of Harleston; Sophie Cowen, 31, of Shaftesbury; Lucy Porter, 48, of Euston; Gabriella Ditton, 28, of Norwich; Rosemary Webster, 64, of Dorchester; and Zoe Cohen, 52, of Lymm, were all convicted of criminal damages worth nearly £100,000.

They had spread along the facade of the Barclays bank building before using chisels and hammers to break the large glass panels that made up the exterior.

Their group was associated with the climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion.

During the trial they argued that Barclays staff would have consented to damages if they had been fully briefed on the climate crisis.

Aside from Cowen, the other six women all have previous convictions for criminal damage, willfully obstructing a highway, violating public assembly guidelines, or some combination of the three.

They were found guilty by a jury in an 11-to-1 majority verdict after more than nine hours of deliberation.

There were 20 supporters in the public gallery, who gave the defendants a standing ovation at the end of the hearing.

‘raise the alarm’

Defendant Webster told jurors that Barclays was the seventh largest fossil fuel lender in the global banking sector and the largest in Europe.

He said the bank was “putting profits before people and the planet” and said it had “shattered” glass windows to “raise the alarm”.

The prosecutor insisted this was not true during his closing speech.

He said protesters had conducted the demonstration “to impose their views and force change”, and because they believed they were “above the law”.

During the trial, some of the protesters compared themselves to suffragettes, who “broke many, many windows”.

Cohen said he “honestly” believed by April 2021 he had run out of other options to try and get the change done, and the repair costs of £97,022 were insignificant for Barclays, which had spent £100m on refurbishments last year.

Justice Milne KC said “all options” must be considered, before adjourning the ruling to January 27, also at Southwark Crown Court.

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