Extinction Rebellion activists fined over £4,000 damage to university lawn

PUBLISHED: 20:23 19 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:21 20 August 2020

The lawn of Trinity College, Cambridge, which was damaged during an Extinction Rebellion protest. Picture: Tim Norman

The lawn of Trinity College, Cambridge, which was damaged during an Extinction Rebellion protest. Picture: Tim Norman

Two activists from Norfolk who dug out a lawn outside a Cambridge University college have been fined and ordered to pay compensation, while a third awaits punishment.

Gilbert Murray, 62, of Hawthorne Avenue, Hellesdon, and 26-year-old Gabriella Ditton, of Violet Road, Norwich, were among 22 protesters from Extinction Rebellion that took part in a protest at Trinity College on February 17, along with 19-year-old Caitlin Fay, of Tudor Road, Harleston.

On Wednesday, they all admitted causing criminal damage to the lawn when they appeared in court on Wednesday.

Extinction Rebellion cited the college’s “ties with fossil fuel companies” as a reason for the protest at the time.

Philip Botterill, prosecuting at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, said the protesters “made their way to the garden lawn at Trinity College, some of them in possession of shovels”.

“They’re chanting at the time,” he said.

“A number of those present begin to dig holes in Trinity College’s lawn, thereby causing damage to it.

“Grass is loaded into wheelbarrows, carted to Barclays bank and left there.”

He said nobody was arrested on the day but that a number of people were identified later.

Ditton also admitted causing criminal damage to a window in a research building run by oilfield service provider Schlumberger in Cambridge the following day, February 18.

The court heard she spray-painted an Extinction Rebellion logo on to it.

Mr Botterill said the cost of repairing the damage to the lawn was estimated at £4,365.

District Judge John Woollard ordered that both defendants pay £198 compensation to Trinity College - dividing the total cost of the damage by the 22 protesters to reach the figure.

The court heard there was no estimate for the cost of repairing the window.

Ditton told the court: “We’re trying to prevent a horrible, horrible future that seems so insurmountable.”

She said she works in illustration and animation and currently makes around £100 per month.

She was fined £120 for each offence and ordered to pay £50 towards prosecution costs and a £64 statutory surcharge.

Murray told the court he is retired but is also a landlord, and this earned him £41,000 last year.

He was fined £480 and ordered to pay a £48 surcharge and £85 costs.

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