Environmental Demonstrators

October 27th, 2022 by James Goudie KC

BREEN v ESSO PETROLEUM (2022) EWCA Civ 1405 is concerned with an environmental protestor guilty of civil contempt of court and the appropriate sanction. The Court addresses in paras 6 & 7 the correct approach to sanctions in contempt cases and in paras 8-11, 13-15, and 72 the particular considerations in protestor cases. An important objective of the sanction is to ensure future compliance with the order in question. The importance of complying with court orders, no matter the sincerity of the protestor’s views, is paramount. In a democratic society, it is the duty of responsible citizens to obey the law and respect the rights of others, even where the law or other people’s activities are contrary to the protestor’s own moral conviction. There is no default position or presumption that a protestor in contempt of court will ordinarily receive a suspended sentence. There is no principle that immediate custody is appropriate only in cases of direct harm and disruption to the public.

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