A former Paralympian who superglued himself to the roof of a British Airways plane at London City Airport as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest has been jailed.
James Brown, 56, scaled the aircraft and glued his right hand to the plane as part of a protest against flying at the airport on October 10, 2019.
The double gold medallist, who had been registered blind since birth, appeared at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (September 24) to be sentenced having been convicted of causing a public nuisance following trial.
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The court heard that Brown, who represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before representing Ireland in cross-country skiing, had booked his flight on the morning of the incident and had been offered assistance boarding due to his disability.
He was equipped with a bottle of superglue in his luggage that had not been detected by security, prosecutor Richard Witcombe told the court.
Brown declined the offer of assistance to his seat, instead telling her that he was going to climb on the roof of the plane.
He spent an hour on top of the plane before he was eventually removed.
Prosecutors said he cause disruption to more than 300 British Airways passengers and cost the airline £40,000.
Giving evidence through tears, Brown said: “I was prepared to challenge myself, to be scared, to face the fear, because the fear of climate ecological breakdown is so much greater.”
The married father-of-four, who runs a charity, added: ““My protest, the purpose I hope is clear, my motivation was to maximise media attention to the climate crisis, which back at that time was hardly receiving any.”
Tim Maloney QC, defending Brown at the sentencing, said in mitigation that Brown has no intention to become involved in unlawful protest again.
He added that Brown has “overcome the barriers to live a successful and inspiring life”, having competed at five Paralympic games and becoming a successful businessman.
Passing sentence, though, Judge Gregory Perrins said Brown intended to cause “the maximum amount of disruption”.
He added: “The right to protest does not entitle you to cause major widespread disruption to a major airport… simply because you think it is the right thing to do.”
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“This is a case in which you acted together with at least 10 other activists to plan and execute a major act of disruption. You intended to cause the maximum amount of disruption possible at the airport if not shut it down completely.
“You cynically used your disability to put your plan into action. You put your own life at risk by climbing on top of the plane.”
The judge said he accepted Brown was motivated “by a desire to bring about a change you genuinely believe is for the benefit of all” and that there must be a “sense of proportionality” when sentencing those who commit offences during a protest.
However, he told Brown there is “no entitlement to more lenient treatment” because he was protesting about the environment.
Brown, of Exeter, was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.
Raj Chada, from HJA solicitors, the firm representing Brown said he will be appealing against the sentence.
“We are shocked that James has been sentenced to 12 months prison. James, registered blind and a gold winning Paralympian at five games should not be in prison for taking part in this protest.
“This a dangerous judgment for our right to free speech, our right to protest and for those who campaign on environmental issues.”