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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 19:06 GMT
Prescott protesters found guilty
The protest on the roof of the house in Hull
The protestors were on the roof of the Prescott's home for eight hours
Eight Greenpeace activists have been found guilty of public order offences after a rooftop protest at the home of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

They had denied using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour during the incident on 26 April.

Mr Prescott's wife Pauline told Hull Magistrates' Court that she was in fear of her life when police told her she should lock herself in her bedroom.

The judge ordered the defendants to do 80 hours of community service each.

District Judge Rutherford said he had seriously considered sending them to prison but decided a community penalty was more appropriate. He also ordered them to split prosecution costs of 3,900.

THE DEFENDANTS ARE:
Martin Cotterill, 38, of Matterdale End, Penrith, Cumbria
Samuel Daniel, 33, of Tenterden Road, London
Catherine Dorey, 36, of Athenaeum Court, Highbury, north London
Laura Yates, 28, of Roseberry Road, London
Steven Scott, 34, of Church Street, Matlock, Derbyshire
Andrew Taylor, 36, of Cheltenham Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire
Victoria Thomas, 27, of Howey, Powys
Sarah North, 36, of Ellingfort Road, London

Referring to the charge that they failed to respond to a police direction to come down from the roof, Mr Rutherford said their behaviour showed utter contempt for the rule of the law.

"It would be very easy for me to say immediate custodial sentences would be an appropriate way to deal with you but I draw back from that," he said.

"I do say that the matter is serious enough to warrant a community order."

The protesters, who had denied contravening a police direction, were charged following their arrest for staging an eight-hour demonstration at Mr Prescott's home on Saltshouse Road, during which they erected two solar panel units.

'Absolutely terrified'

The court heard how up to 30 activists had arrived outside the detached property at about 0600 GMT and started scaling the gates.

They were confronted by two plain-clothed policemen who drew their handguns.

The officers told the judge they had feared they were under attack but quickly realised the demonstrators were from Greenpeace and put their weapons away.

Minutes later, ladders were put up the side of the house and eight protesters were standing on the roof.

Mrs Prescott was in the house at the time, as was her husband's secretary Della Georgeson.

Pauline Prescott
Pauline Prescott was woken up by a call from a police guard

Giving evidence, Mrs Prescott said she had stayed in her room with Ms Georgeson for eight hours until she thought it was safe to come out.

Asked how she felt at this time, she replied: "Absolutely terrified. In fear of my life, quite frankly."

Ms Georgeson also told the court she had thought she was going to die when the incident began.

The activists each told the court they had not realised there was anyone inside the house and had not intended to harass anyone.

They said the solar panels were a gift to Mr Prescott as part of a legitimate protest about the problems of global warming.

'Crossed the boundary'

Francis Fitzgibbon, defending, said: "They sincerely regret any harassment, alarm or distress their action may have caused.

"They undertook this protest because they wanted to make a forceful point about the effect of global warming which they have taken the trouble to research and understand and they want others to understand it too."

Following the defendants' convictions, Supt Gavin Collinson said everybody, including those in public life, had a right to privacy in their own home.

"We will always support the public's democratic right to express their views in peaceful protest. On this occasion, the demonstrators crossed the boundary of what is deemed appropriate and their actions caused distress to those inside Mr and Mrs Prescott's home," he said.


SEE ALSO:
Prescott roof activists released
27 Apr 05 |  England
Prescott roof activists arrested
26 Apr 05 |  England


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