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Activist loses appeal against sentence

Activist loses appeal against sentence
Morgan Trowland PHOTO SUPPLIED

A former Ashburton man and climate change protestor has failed in his bid to reduce a record jail sentence in the United Kingdom.

But civil engineer Morgan Trowland, 40, says he doesn't regret his actions and has made peace with his sentence.

Trowland, who grew up in rural Geraldine and Ashburton, was sentenced to three years in jail for causing a public nuisance after a seven-day jury trial earlier this year.

His sentence is the longest sentence for a peaceful protest in UK history.

Trowland and co-accused Markus Decker, 34, used rope and climbing equipment to scale the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge on the Thames River on October 17 last year.

Once on the bridge, they unfurled a Just Stop Oil flag to press for an end to further fossil fuel exploration and global warming.

Their actions forced police to close the Dartford Crossing for 40 hours and caused havoc on the M25 below - one of the main arterial highways around London.

Both men were repeat protest offenders and on bail when they staged the Just Stop Oil protest.

Decker was given a two-year and seven-month jail sentence and faces potential deportation.

Last week the protestors' lawyers tried to reduce the "extraordinary length" of the sentences at a hearing in the Court of Appeal.

Written submissions argued the sentences were "unduly severe" and likely to have a "chilling effect" on future protests.

However, the appeals were rejected by three senior judges, who said the protest had "extreme consequences" for many members of the public. They also found the sentences were "not excessive".

Lady Justice Sue Carr, sitting with Mrs Justice Johanna Cutts and Mrs Justice Justine Thornton, acknowledged there was a "long and honourable tradition of civil disobedience on conscientious grounds".

They also said the sentences handed to Trowland and Decker went "well beyond" previous sentences for this type of offending. However, they believed the sentences reflected Parliament's will under new laws enacted last year.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act introduced a new "fault-based public nuisance offence" including non-violent protests, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, Carr said.

A recorded message from Trowland, posted online after the appeal, said he was okay and had "made peace" with his sentence.

He was content to have dragged "this deadly smouldering situation out into the air and the harsh light of day".

Trowland found it ironic that the outcome of his appeal was announced on the same day the UK government announced "massive" new oil licences.

"The message is clear - the government chooses profits over people."

He believed the UK government was trying to control protestors through fear and said it was "grasping at the panic button" and using a "brutal club made of fear" to control protests.

"A three-year sentence is an admission that people need to be coerced into accepting this."

Trowland said his "big regret' was staging the protest with "someone who risks being torn away from their family. This was too great a heartbreak to risk".

Decker, a German national who lives in Tottenham with his young family, faces deportation once his sentence is served.

Non-British citizens with a prison sentence of more than twelve months are sent automatic deportation notices.

A petition to stop Decker's deportation has gathered more than 120,000 signatures since it was launched in June.

By Sharon Davis