Published: 09:10, 23 March 2021
| Updated: 10:44, 23 March 2021
She's been waiting 18 months for her day in court, but Extinction Rebellion activist Laura Clout from Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks, has finally appeared before City of London Magistrates.
Ms Clout, 42, was charged with obstructing the highway during the large climate change protests in the capital in October 2019.
She was arrested while sitting in a cycle lane in Millbank.
The mother-of-three to Rosie, Luca and Arlo, explained to the court why she had been there.
She told magistrates: "I’ve had a growing sense of unease about the state of our planet for many years, and after I invited two speakers from Extinction Rebellion to talk in Sevenoaks where I live, I could no longer ignore this internal voice.
"They spoke of the terrifying climate science distilled so chillingly by the likes of Greta Thunberg.
"They spoke of climate justice, ecological disaster and societal collapse and our moral duty, especially in the privileged global north, to be honest about what we face, and to take whatever action we can to mitigate it."
She added: "I will never forget the image they evoked of human nature during famines, how the good people die first because they do not steal or cannibalise their neighbours."
Ms Clout, a former Daily Telegraph journalist who is currently retraining to become a forest school leader, continued: "In the most basic sense, as a mother of three children aged 10, eight and five, I have a primal urge to protect them and give them a chance of a safe future.
"But for millions of women living right now, this most basic of hopes is not realistic.
"Extreme heatwaves, landslides and flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes, droughts and forest fires are their lived reality.
"Climate-induced displacement of people, violent conflicts over resources, famine, has become part of daily life for other families with children just as special to them as my own are to me.
"The loss of habitat and species as documented so beautifully by Sir David Attenborough is enough on its own to make a person weep.
"And of course, humans are part of the eco-systems, and we simply may not survive without them.
"Our leaders know this too. And yet still they miss even those targets they have agreed to. They do not count emissions from shipping and aviation, they subsidise fossil fuels, approve new fossil fuel projects and prop up a banking system which finances the fossil fuel industry."
Ms Clout organised protests at the visit by President Trump at The Vine in Sevenoaks in July 2018. She and other protesters held a "die-in" outside shops in Bligh's Court, Sevenoaks, in April 2019.
She helped school children hold their own climate change strike in September 2019 and was involved with a picket of the Sevenoaks district council offices in June last year.
In November 2019, ahead of the last General Election, Ms Clout and the Sevenoaks branch of Extinction Rebellion organised a political hustings and invited all the candidates for the Sevenoaks seat to attend and give their views on climate change and other issues.
Ironically, the only candidate who didn't appear was the Conservative Laura Trott, who was subsequently elected to the seat.
Ms Clout alleged: "The mainstream media, of which I used to be a part, continues to withhold the most alarming facts from the people."
She said: "Even if we hit net zero emissions by 2050 that only gives us a 50:50 chance of staying below 1.5 degrees of global heating.
"I’m kept awake at night by fears that my children will die violently in a climate-crisis induced war, that they might starve to death or suffer from a deadly pandemic which dwarfs anything coronavirus has thrown at us.
"My children are my life, but had I known in 2011 what I know now, I would not have chosen to have them."
Ms Clout told magistrates: "These are the reasons why I sat in the road with hundreds of other people in October 2019 and risked suffering a brief loss of my personal freedom."
"It was a tiny action which seems even more insignificant all these months on, but one I would repeat in an instant if I thought it could help to slow the deadly juggernaut which our leaders insist on driving off the cliff of climate collapse."
Ms Clout pleaded not guilty, arguing that the obstruction was minimal and that she was exercising her legitimate rights under Articles 10 and 11 (freedom of expression and freedom of assembly) of the Human Rights Act.
Nevertheless, magistrates found her guilty. She was given a nine-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £396.
Two other demonstrators arrested with her appeared in court at the same time. One pleaded guilty, the other had her case dismissed after the Crown offered no evidence.
Ms Clout said: "Filling out petitions, attending protests, voting and campaigning is not enough.
"This is the way I choose to use my voice, a voice of privilege and comfort, and I will continue to do so while I have breath in by body and hope in my heart."