THE CHIEF of a leading lighting industry compliance body has been found guilty of obstruction and given a nine-month conditional discharge over his part in a climate change protest in London.
Nigel Harvey, chief executive officer of Recolight, was also ordered to pay costs of £321.
City of London magistrates found him guilty of the wilful obstruction of the highway during an Extinction Rebellion sit-in in central London on 7 October 2019.
Harvey, a former Lux Person of the Year for his role in recycling lamps and lighting equipment, was seized by police for obstructing traffic in Trafalgar Square and taken away in a police van to cheers from fellow climate change activists.
He was one of 280 protestors arrested on the day.
The campaigners brought Westminster to a halt, causing disruption to motorists, buses and commercial traffic, to demand that the Government take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.
The court was shown video footage of the incident, shot by a police helicopter on the day, which showed a tall scaffolding structure, apparently built by the protesters, causing traffic disruption on Northumberland Avenue.
The court also viewed footage taken by a body-worn video camera mounted on the chest of arresting officer PC Hopkins of the Metropolitan Police. It showed Harvey sitting on the highway.
He is heard quoting the TV presenter and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, telling the officer: ‘Unless we take action, then we risk the breakdown of the natural world and the collapse of our societies’.
Hopkins then tells Harvey he is arresting him under the Highway Act and reads him his legal rights. Climate activists are heard chanting and singing in the background.
In court, Hopkins testified that Harvey was in the middle of the road at the junction with Northumberland Avenue and Trafalgar Square.
He said: ‘Harvey was sat on the floor around the large scaffolding tower. I pointed out the offence and went through the five-stage appeal.
‘Mr Harvey replied “no comment” and refused to leave the highway after multiple requests to do so.’
He then arrested Harvey, who was taken to Wood Green Police Station.
Harvey, a passionate environmentalist, defended his action as necessary to bring the issue to the top of the agenda.
Harvey told the court: ‘My actions were to prevent a much greater harm both for the long term and the immediate term.
‘The number of deaths due to the climate emergency is set to rise dramatically.
‘The former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said that from the middle of this century, the climate emergency will result in the equivalent deaths of the coronavirus pandemic, every year’.
He quoted Attenborough as saying the climate change emergency would result in ‘irreversible damage to our natural world’.
‘Now that I fully understand the total catastrophe that is coming our way, there is not a single day that goes by without my worrying about it.’
Choking with emotion, he referred to his three children and said he worried for their future.
‘So what can I do? I’ve done my best to reduce my environmental footprint. I run a recycling company. I sign petitions. And yet the emissions continue.
‘These approaches have failed. Personal action can only do so much.
‘The politicians that we elect have failed to put policies forward to tackle this problem.
‘What could I do, but find the most impactful way to blow the whistle on the inaction of our politicians?
‘How could it be possibly morally justifiable for me to ignore those facts? That is why I took this action.
‘There are people dying now because of the climate emergency.’
He referred to recent natural disasters in India and elsewhere which had caused numerous deaths.
‘Had the Extinction Rebellion protest been successful [in getting the UK authorities to act], our example could have been followed by other governments.
‘If that happened I have no doubt that some people who are dead would be alive now.
‘I can’t see how my peaceful actions were not entirely proportionate to the threats to humanity.
‘I took the action I did to prevent long term harm, for my children, and for the people who are dying now.
‘When politicians fail to protect us, we must find other ways of bringing the country to its senses’.
The presiding magistrate Paul Brooks dismissed Harvey’s defence of acting to avert to an imminent threat to life, saying the climate change crisis was ‘not a matter for this court’.
He ruled that Harvey had wilfully obstructed the highway and passed down a nine-month conditional discharge, warning Harvey that if he appeared in court on another offence, the case could be reopened.
He ordered Harvey to pay court costs of £310 and a surcharge of £21.
It is the second time that Harvey, 57, has been arrested for environmental action.
Harvey was named Lux Person of the Year in the 2012 Lux Awards in recognition of his role in the success of Recolight, which helps lighting manufacturers meet their recycling obligations under European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment laws (WEEE).