12 January 2021
More than 3,400 people were organised on protests organised by Extinction Rebellion last year, and about 1,700 of those have been charged. Of those, 900 have plead guilty and a further 800 have been tried or are awaiting trial. The decision to charge so many people for minor offences looks "political", according to one researcher following the cases.
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Raj Chada, a solicitor acting for many of the defendants, does not consider the prosecutions to be in the public interest, particularly given that many defendants are being forced to travel for court appearances in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
See: More than 1,000 Extinction Rebellion activists taken to court (The Guardian, link)
"Graeme Hayes, a sociologist from Aston University, who is part of a team of researchers following the XR court cases, agreed the decision to prosecute so many people for minor offences was highly unusual. “What we are seeing looks very much like political decisions to charge people and to take them to court for very minor offences, and that is extraordinary. I can not think of a precedent [in the UK] where that has happened before on anything like this scale.”
Hayes said it appeared to be the result of political pressure, possibly from the home secretary, Priti Patel, who labelled XR as criminals who threatened the “UK way of life”, and from the police, who were criticised after the April 2019 protests."
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