Wigan climate change campaigner's joy over dropped charges

A Wigan climate change campaigner has spoken out after the legal case against her following a high-profile demonstration was dropped.

Senior NHS worker Julie Hotchkiss has confirmed hers is one of hundreds of prosecutions abandoned against Extinction Rebellion members.

A huge number of arrests were made when the direct action group descended on London earlier this year but police bosses have now been left red-faced after the courts ruled it unlawfully used public order legislation to get the protestors off the streets.

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Ms Hotchkiss, from Appley Bridge, slammed the authorities’ incorrect use of section 14 of the Public Order Act and stressed the urgency and importance of being able to protest about climate change and the state of the planet.

She said: “I was delighted the charges have been dropped, not just for me but the many people taking part in the peaceful actions that were part of the International Rebellion. The right to peaceful protest is something we Brits pride ourselves on, and the way the Police extended their powers in London was shocking, and shown to be unlawful.

“The ecological and climate emergency we are in requires drastic action. This is why I and many other law-abiding citizens feel we have to take part in non-violent direct action. The way we have abused the planet is coming back to bite us. We have been taking too many resources, and churning out too much waste, whether it be to the air, the rivers and seas or the land.

People in Wigan may remember the Broomfield Tip fire and serious land contamination on the Ince Central estate (formerly known as Chemical Fields) which caused threats to health in the 2000s.

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“I acted then and I am acting now on what are much graver threats to our health and the rest of the human beings, regardless of which they live in.

Previous actions have not been enough. Every year our consumption goes up, we are putting more carbon dioxide from burning oil and gas in the atmosphere and the big oil companies are still working on new oil and gas sites, some literally under our feet. We have to get our government to take action right now.”

Prosecutors informed scores of XR protestors who were charged with breaching section 14 orders during the October protests that their cases have been discontinued.

The organisation has now applied to the High Court to quash formally the order from the first week of the demonstrations, following the verdict that a blanket ban on XR protests during the second week imposed by the Metropolitan Police was unlawful.

The landmark ruling was a major embarrassment for the capital’s police force, with one of the solicitors who represented XR at the High Court calling the policing of the October rebellion “a mess”.