Extinction Rebellion: Paralympian James Brown jailed for plane glue stunt

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Image source, Extinction Rebellion/PA
Image caption, A bottle of superglue in James Brown's luggage went undetected

A former Paralympic champion who glued himself to the roof of a plane during an Extinction Rebellion protest has been jailed for a year.

James Brown, who is visually impaired, climbed on to the British Airways plane at London City Airport in October 2019.

The 56-year-old glued his right hand to the Amsterdam-bound plane, wedging his phone in the door so it wouldn't close.

"You cynically used your disability to put your plan into action," Judge Gregory Perrins said.

The double gold medallist from Exeter was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment, of which he will serve half, at Southwark Crown Court.

Northern Ireland-born Brown, who represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before competing for Ireland in cross-country skiing, spent an hour on the aircraft before he was removed.

Prosecutors previously said he caused disruption to more than 300 British Airways passengers, costing the airline £40,000.

Image source, Extinction Rebellion/PA
Image caption, Brown wept as he gave evidence at Southwark Crown Court

Brown, who represented himself at his trial, denied one count of causing a public nuisance, claiming he had "to do something spectacular" to draw attention to the climate crisis.

He was found guilty in July after a jury deliberated for less than an hour.

Judge Perrins said: "The right to protest does not entitle you to cause major widespread disruption to a major airport... simply because you think it is the right thing to do."

"This is a case in which you acted together with at least 10 other activists to plan and execute a major act of disruption.

"You intended to cause the maximum amount of disruption possible at the airport, if not shut it down completely."

The jury heard that Brown had booked his flight on the morning of the stunt, and had been offered assistance with boarding due to his disability.

He had a bottle of superglue in his luggage that had not been detected by security, prosecutor Richard Witcombe said.

Image source, EPA
Image caption, Extinction Rebellion protesters targeted London City Airport in October 2019

Brown declined an offer by a member of cabin staff to help him to his seat, telling her that he was going to climb on to the roof of the plane.

Tim Maloney QC, representing Brown at his sentencing hearing, said: "He has expressed an intention not to become involved in unlawful protest again."

Mr Maloney said Brown had "overcome the barriers to live a successful and inspiring life", competing at five Paralympic Games and becoming a successful businessman.

Brown won bronze in cycling representing Ireland at the 2012 Games, and two athletics golds for Great Britain, in the 800m and 1500m, at the 1984 Paralympic Games in New York. He has competed in five winter and summer Paralympics across a range of sports.

"There is so much more to his life than sporting excellence," Mr Maloney said, as he described Brown's career as a maths teacher before working for Gloucestershire County Council in disabled children's services.

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