Sue Parfitt outside City of London Magistrates’ Court (Helena Smith/Extinction Rebellion/PA)
Bristol Priest vows to keep offending despite conviction over climate change protest
A 77-year-old priest has told a court that she will not stop protesting for climate change action despite the risk of a criminal conviction. The Rev Sue Parfitt, of Bristol, was arrested as she and other climate campaigners blocked Oxford Circus in central London during an Extinction Rebellion protest in April last year.
She was on trial with another campaigner, 29-year-old Dimitra Soukiouroglou. They both denied breaching an order banning protests at Oxford Circus and Waterloo.
Rev Parfitt told the City of London Magistrates' Court that lying down on the road had been hard for her because she is not generally a lawbreaker.
When asked by a police officer to move, she said she couldn't because of her sense of responsibility to save future generations from the harmful effects of climate change.
"When asked by the sergeant to move, it did take some small effort on my part to refuse, I'm not in the habit of saying no to policemen," she said.
"I knew I must stand my ground; my responsibility was to the many millions in this world who are currently affected as a matter of climate justice now - it is the poor of the world who are mostly affected by climate change now - but also to future generations who will be most grievously affected."
She suggested that she would continue to resort to civil disobedience despite the legal risks.
"My small action constitutes a necessary part of a worldwide action that we have to hope, for all our sakes, will be successful in preventing even worse harm than is imminently threatened by climate change," she said.
"I am not a lawyer and not a scientist but I am also not a criminal. I have spent my life as a law-abiding citizen.
"But if we are to survive as a race and as a creation, we have to take the most radical, unpopular, counter-intuitive action, including acts of civil disobedience."
Rev Parfitt lay on the road at Oxford Circus (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Reverend Sue Parfitt had denied breaching the order preventing protesters from demonstrating at Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge in London in April last year.
The 77-year-old from Bristol had said she should not be found guilty because not demonstrating would have caused further deaths and destruction to the planet.
But deputy district judge Briony Clarke found her guilty following a trial on Wednesday and handed her a nine-month conditional discharge.
She also ordered Rev Parfitt to pay £350 in costs.
The priest said it would be dishonest of her to accept such a sentence because she planned to continue to protest through civil disobedience.
She said: “It’s a sentence I cannot accept, it would be dishonest.”
But Ms Clarke told Rev Parfitt she could not accept or decline the sentence she was imposing.
Speaking after the trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court, Rev Parfitt added: “It (offending) will be necessary because we are going to have to work at this a bit longer to get the Government to take the radical steps it needs to take.”
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