A British court on Friday sentenced a former Paralympian gold medallist to a year in jail for gluing himself onto the roof of a plane at a climate protest.
James Brown, 56, was born in Northern Ireland and won two gold medals for Great Britain and a bronze for Ireland in cycling at the Paralympics. He is registered blind.
He climbed on top of a British Airways plane during an Extinction Rebellion protest at London City Airport and superglued his hand to the roof.
A judge at London’s Southwark Crown Court sentenced him to 12 months in prison after a jury found him guilty of causing a public nuisance.
Judge Gregory Perrins told Brown the sentence showed those “tempted to seriously disrupt the lives of ordinary members of the public in the way that you did and then seek to justify it in the name of protest” that “they will face serious consequences”.
Extinction Rebellion said he would spend at least six months behind bars, slamming the ruling as “a dangerous judgment for our right to free speech, our right to protest and for those who campaign on environmental issues”.
Lawyer Raj Chada, who represented the group, said they would be appealing the sentence.
Alanna Byrne, of Extinction Rebellion UK, said fellow activists were “shocked and devastated” but called Brown “a hero to us all”.
Prosecutors said the protest action disrupted flights for more than 300 passengers, costing the airline around £40,000 ($55,000, 47,000 euros).
Brown was one of the hundreds of activists who attempted to lay siege to the east London airport to protest against an expansion project.
The group’s colourful protests have attracted a mass following since it was formed by UK academics studying the effects of harmful carbon emissions on Earth.
It calls for the British government to take a more radical approach to reducing emissions.
Last month, Extinction Rebellion held a series of protests in the City of London financial district amid a heavy police presence.
An offshoot group, Insulate Britain, on Friday blocked access to the port of Dover, demanding the government step up action insulating homes.