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Insulate Britain group sentenced for action over housing

31 December 2021

Alamy

Screengrab from a PA video of Insulate Britain supporters (left to right), Paul Sheekey, the Revd Sue Parfitt, Biff Whipster, Ruth Jarman, Steve Pritchard, Steve Gower, and Richard Ramsden, outside the High Court, on 14 December

Screengrab from a PA video of Insulate Britain supporters (left to right), Paul Sheekey, the Revd Sue Parfitt, Biff Whipster, Ruth Jarman, Steve Pritc...

THIRTEEN Christians have been arrested over the past year while campaigning for the Government to insulate the UK’s draughty housing stock.

The group, Insulate Britain, is urging the Government to act as a means of addressing fuel poverty and climate change. They argue that, if the UK’s housing stock was better insulated it would result in less energy waste, less burning of fossil fuels for heating, and lower energy bills.

On 15 December, a retired priest, the Revd Sue Parfitt, aged 79, was in the High Court facing the prospect of up to two years in prison for her part in blocking the M25 motorway (News, 24 September). The judge found her guilty, but her sentence of two months was suspended for two years.

In court, Ms Parfitt said: “I follow in the footsteps of the radical, non-violent, prophetic Jesus, who called out the evil oppressors of his time, who were intent on safeguarding their own interests to the detriment of the poor. That is what is happening now. I call out this injustice.

“When I was ordained a priest, I promised that I would always serve the interests of the poor. And so, like Jesus my leader, I am calling for justice for the poor; for those in this country who will die of cold this winter, as well as for those many millions who are now and will in the future die of climate change-related events.”

Members of the group have been gaining publicity for their campaign by bringing the M25 motorway to a halt in recent months and causing tailbacks. In total, 174 people were arrested 857 times across 18 days of activity over seven weeks. The majority of the 174 have not yet been prosecuted, but ten people are in prison for disobeying a High Court injunction obtained by the Government to stop the protests.

Ms Parfitt told the judge that her sentence would not affect her activism. “It is of no consequence to me what you decide to do with me today. If you send me to prison, I shall use the time profitably to continue, in whatever way I can, to sound the alarm about the emergency facing humanity.

“If you leave me at liberty, I shall continue to protest in whatever way most dramatically draws attention to the appalling plight we are in, whether that involves breaking the law or not. Your decision about me and my fellow defendants is of no consequence at all, but your decision is of consequence for the future of the human race and of most other species.”

Sharing the stand with Ms Parfitt were two other Christians, Ruth Jarman, aged 58 and a mother of two, and Dr Ben Buse, a university lecturer from Bristol (News, 26 March).

Both Ms Parfitt and Ms Jarman received two-month prison sentences, suspended for two years. Dr Buse was escorted to court from HM Prison Thameside, as he had previously been sentenced to a four-month prison sentence for a previous climate protest. The court sentenced him to a further 30 days in prison.

Holly-Anna Petersen, a member of Christian Climate Action and a mental-health therapist from London, said: “It’s clear that those profiting from the climate emergency are doing everything they can to deter those standing up for planetary protection. Those in power need to be made accountable. How is it that Ben is in prison for five months for climate protests, away from friends and family, yet the Downing Street Christmas parties still haven’t even been investigated?”

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