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Priest jailed after climate-change protest in court

22 March 2021

City of London Magistrates Court

City of London Magistrates Court

AN ANGLICAN priest has been imprisoned for contempt, and a second faces a police investigation, after they glued themselves to courtroom furniture during hearings arising from an Extinction Rebellion protest.

CHRISTIAN CLIMATE ACTIONBen Buse and the Revd Tim Hewes outside City of London Magistrates Court on Friday

The Revd Tim Hewes, aged 70, was sentenced at the City of London Magistrates Court last Friday to 14 days in prison, after protesting at what he described as the court’s complicity with the Government’s lack of action on the climate emergency.

The previous day, the Revd Sue Parfitt, aged 79, was arrested when she staged a similar protest. She was held at Bishopsgate Police Station, and later released under police investigation. Both incidents were live-streamed online.

Mr Hewes, a retired dentist and a former non-stipendiary minister, holds a Permission to Officiate from Oxford diocese. As a member of the Christian Climate Action (CCA) group, he had attended the court with a fellow CCA member, Ben Buse, who was charged with breaking an order under section 14 of the Public Order Act banning demonstrations in London last autumn. He, too, was sentenced to 14 days for glueing himself to the furniture.

Ms Parfitt retired in 2001 after holding senior administrative posts in the Bristol and Southwark dioceses, and has a Permission to Officiate from Bristol. She was facing a similar charge of defying a Section 14 order, when she and a fellow CCA member, Ruth Jarman, glued themselves to the courtroom furniture.

In court, Mr Hewes, from Wantage, Oxon, said: “Police are being instructed to crack down on lawful protest, and the courts instructed to ignore the fact that our world is on fire. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens are criminalised for justified and legal protest as the only way remaining to draw attention to the impending catastrophe.”

Ms Parfitt, from Bristol, has been arrested a number of times for climate-emergency protests. In court, she said: ‘Whatever the cost, I have the absolute duty to do all that is in my power to at least try to slow down the worst consequences of the impending climate catastrophe, which is a fundamental threat to life, property, and the very existence of the global society in which we live.

“It is a particular threat to God’s poor, in the UK and around the world. Thus, I am doing what I am doing to claim justice for the sake of the poor, already deeply affected by climate change, as well as justice for future generations.”

The diocese of Oxford said in a statement on Monday: “The environmental crises facing our planet is the defining issue of our age. This is a critical year for action by government, institutions, and individuals as we chart a course to Net Zero. The UK has a leadership role as we prepare for the COP summit in November.

“As a diocese we support all those working to highlight the call for more urgent action and advocate for the changes now needed in peaceful and lawful ways. While Revd Hewes’ protest has broken the law on this occasion, something we cannot condone, he and fellow activists remind us all of the moral imperative to act, right now, for the sake of the earth.”

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