Two Just Stop Oil protesters who scaled a bridge on the Dartford Crossing, causing gridlock when police closed the bridge to traffic, have both been jailed as the judge stressed he wanted others to be deterred from copying them.
Morgan Trowland, 40, and 34-year-old Marcus Decker used ropes and other climbing equipment to scale the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which links the M25 in Essex and Kent.
Prosecutor Adam King said the bridge was closed from 4am on October 17 last year to 9pm the following day, with jams as traffic was forced to use the tunnels instead.
Both defendants were found guilty by unanimous verdicts of causing a public nuisance, following an earlier trial at Basildon Crown Court.
Judge Shane Collery KC sentenced Trowland at Southend Crown Court to three years in prison, while Decker was jailed for two years and seven months.
“You have to be punished for the chaos you caused and to deter others from copying you,” he said.
The judge said that Trowland, who has six previous convictions relating to protests, had a “leading role”, while Decker had one previous conviction relating to a protest.
The judge said that the pair “plainly believed you knew better than everyone else”, adding: “In short, to hell with everyone else.”
“By your actions you caused this very important road to be closed for 40 hours,” the judge said, noting that the disruption affected “many tens of thousands, some very significantly”.
The pair had been in custody since they were remanded at their first appearance at magistrates’ court some six months ago, on October 20 in Southend.
Prosecutor Mr King said that the protesters ascended to a point close to 200ft above the road and unfurled a “giant Just Stop Oil banner” and “rigged up hammocks and stayed there”.
“This closure caused gridlock for miles around throughout that period, which we say was the point,” said Mr King.
He said the men came down at about 5.30pm on October 18 “with the help of police and a very tall cherry picker crane”, but the bridge was not reopened to traffic until later.
Trowland, of Islington, north London, and Decker, 34, of no fixed address, had denied causing a public nuisance, arguing that it was a protest.
Essex Police said that those impacted by the traffic disruption included a “heavily pregnant woman who needed urgent medical help”.
Another person missed the funeral of their best friend of 35 years, the force said, and a business lost more than £160,000 in earnings.
Jacob Bindman, for Trowland, said: “He’s able to say this protest, and his experience of having spent time in prison, largely represents the end of his involvement in this kind of activity.
“He doesn’t intend to undertake any large-scale disruptive protests in the future.”
He said that structural engineer Trowland had “in his words done his bit” and “he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his days going in and out of prison”.
Rebecca Martin, for Decker, said that the protest “wasn’t his idea” and that the “expert in climbing” was not part of the initial planning process.
She said that both private tutor Decker, who is a German citizen with two degrees, and his co-defendant were “trying to act for the greater good in the long term”.
Ms Martin said Decker would also not take part in further disruptive protests.
But the judge said he saw “no signs” the defendants were “any less committed to the causes you espouse than before”.