Suffolk XR protestor says blocking printing press was 'proportionate'

Charlotte Kirin, from Bury St Edmunds, was convicted of blocking a highway outside a printing press in Hertfordshire

Charlotte Kirin, from Bury St Edmunds, was convicted of blocking a highway outside a printing press in Hertfordshire - Credit: PA

An Extinction Rebellion activist from Suffolk appealing her conviction for blocking a printing press from delivering newspapers said her actions were "proportionate".

Charlotte Kirin, from Bury St Edmunds, was among a number of XR activists who conducted a 14-hour blockade of Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on September 4, 2020.

The 53-year-old and four other protestors were found guilty of obstructing the highway during two trials at St Albans Magistrates’ Court in 2021.

Charlotte Kirin and Hazel Stenson, bottom left, have both been found guilty over the printing press

Charlotte Kirin and Hazel Stenson, bottom left, were among those found guilty over the printing press blockade - Credit: PA

They are now questioning whether there was political interference in the police action shutting down the demonstration.

Hertfordshire Constabulary Chief Constable Charlie Hall received several calls from Home Secretary Priti Patel throughout the night, St Albans Crown Court previously heard.

The five are also arguing their actions were justified by freedom of expression and by their rights to freedom of assembly and association.

About 60 XR members used vehicles and bamboo to deny access onto or off the Broxbourne site, which prints newspapers including The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Times and the Daily Mail. 

Copies of the East Anglian Daily Times were also unable to be delivered to newsagents in Suffolk and north Essex due to the blockade.

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The activists have argued that their actions were due to the urgency of the climate emergency compared with the disruption caused.

They also claim that a full blockade was necessary to draw attention to the way the press and particularly Rupert Murdoch's newspapers cover the crisis.

While she was giving evidence, Kirin said: “It was a few hours interruption of an industry that has been having its say every day for years and years, and continues to publish stories that seem to ask us to focus our attention and anger on the individuals who are disadvantaged by society, rather than focus on the source of power where the harm is actually happening.

“It felt proportionate to me.”

Two Extinction Rebellion protesters blocking the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Bro

Two Extinction Rebellion protesters blocking the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire - Credit: PA

The occupation caused businesses reliant on the printers to lose an estimated £1.2 million and in addition, left Newsprinter staff on the 7pm-4am shift unable to leave the site via car. 

Alan Brett, manufacturing director of Newsprinters, described the atmosphere among staff during the protest, telling the court the staff were “frustrated, angry, upset”.

“They were frustrated by the fact that they could not get home and the fact that their jobs were impacted” he added.

“I was trying to calm their frustrations,” he said.

“There was shouting at the protesters as they went to get their taxis.”