Today
Fri 17 September 2021

The Home Secretary personally intervened in an effort to stop a climate change protest at a print works owned by the right-wing media mogul, a court heard today

The Home Secretary lobbied a chief constable to end an Extinction Rebellion protest that was blocking a newspaper print works owned by Rupert Murdoch, a court heard today.

Priti Patel and the Prime Minster were said to be “taking an interest” as 50 Extinction Rebellion protestors blockaded the print works, preventing Murdoch’s national newspapers from leaving the Hertfordshire plant.

The demonstration at the news-printing site at Broxbourne on 4 September last year stopped three-and-a-half million copies of national newspapers, including the Daily Mail, the Sun, The Times and the Telegraph, from being distributed.

Superintendent Edward Wells, who had been called out to deal with the demonstration, told St Albans Magistrates Court that the Assistant Chief Constable of Hertfordshire, Owen Weatherill, had told him of a call from Priti Patel to Hertfordshire Chief Constable Charlie Hall during the night-time protest by the climate change activists.

Wells was asked if the Home Secretary’s conversation had played a part in his decision to order the arrest of the protestors. “It did not cause me any concern,” he said. “I don’t know what the Home Secretary was saying. A great many people thought the protest should end… I made the decision based on what I felt was right.”

Raj Chada, who is representing some of the defendants – who are standing trial for obstruction of the highway, said: “Part of the mix was the Home Secretary lobbying the Chief Constable.” Wells replied: “I suppose it was part of the mix, but the command structure we have allows me to be insulated (in decision-making).”

According to Mr Chada, the ‘Gold Command Log’ from the night showed that: “At 23.51 the Prime Minister and Home Secretary were already taking an interest… At 00.56 the Home Secretary was on the phone seeking an early intervention and early removal of the protestors.”

He said that the Home Secretary had a conference call with the Hertfordshire Chief Constable.

Alan Brett, the Newsprinters’ manufacturing director, earlier told district judge Sally Fudge: “We weren’t able to distribute any copies whatsoever. We looked at printing elsewhere. We lost a lot of sales and the copies were left on the floor… We lost over a million pounds.”

The trial continues.

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