Jailed Insulate Britain activists told to pay £5k each for National Highways’ legal fees

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Nine activists from Insulate Britain were jailed for breaching High Court injunctions. They must now pay £5k each for National Highways’ claim for legal costs, judges have ruled. This amounts to a total of £45k to go towards the “excessive” legal bill.

The protesters were sentenced on Wednesday 17 November. It came after they admitted to breaching an injunction by taking part in a blockade, during morning rush hour on 8 October, at M25’s junction 25.

Sentences

Ana Heyatawin and Louis McKechnie were jailed for three months. Meanwhile Ben Buse, Roman Paluch-Machnik, Oliver Rock, Emma Smart, Tim Speers and James Thomas received four-month sentences.

Smart is currently on hunger strike whilst in prison:

Ben Taylor was given a longer sentence of six months “to deter (him) from committing further breaches”. It came after justice Victoria Sharp described his submissions to the court on Tuesday as “inflammatory” and a “call to arms”.

The judge, sitting with justice Martin Chamberlain, said there was no alternative to custodial sentences given that the group’s actions were so serious and they had made it clear they intended to further flout court orders.

Insulate Britain protests
Protesters from Insulate Britain block Great George Street in Parliament Square, central London (James Manning/PA)

Exorbitant legal costs

Myriam Stacey QC, representing National Highways, previously said the legal costs of the proceedings were just over £91k. And she had asked the court to order the protesters to pay.

But in a written judgment after the hearing, the two judges ruled while it was fair to get the jailed activists to pay some legal fees, National Highways’ claimed costs were “excessive”.

They found National Highways’ fees included sums for advice from two senior barristers, four junior barristers and extra fees for three barristers.

Sharp said:

Even bearing in mind the need to consider relatively extensive evidence… we consider that these costs were excessive

The two judges also said it was not “reasonable” for three solicitors to attend the High Court hearing.

Sharp and Chamberlain ordered each of the activists to pay £5k towards National Highways’ costs, making a total of £45k. The judges concluded:

We would expect the claimant to enter into a dialogue with the defendants about how this liability is to be discharged

Insulate Britain has said it intends to continue the protests, which have sparked anger among motorists and others affected by the blockades, until the government agrees to insulate homes.

Preventing protest

The High Court has so far issued five injunctions to prevent protesters from blocking roads.

They include one injunction granted to Transport for London (TfL) and four to National Highways, banning demonstrations on the M25, around the Port of Dover and on major roads around London.

The High Court granted TfL a civil banning order aimed at preventing protesters from obstructing traffic on some of the London’s busiest roads.

Those who breach the injunctions could face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine.

Further committal proceedings are expected to be issued against other Insulate Britain protesters relating to protests on 27 October.

A protest is planned at noon on Saturday 20 November to show solidarity with the activists in prison:

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