Northern Ireland news

Former NI paralympian jailed after supergluing himself to plane begins appeal

 Screengrab taken from a live video feed on the Facebook page of Extinction Rebellion of paralympian James Brown lying top of a British Airways plane at City Airport, London.
Brian Farmer, PA

Northern Ireland-born Paralympic athlete James Brown, who was given a 12-month jail sentence after supergluing himself to the roof of a British Airways plane at London City Airport in a bid to draw attention to the climate crisis, has begun an appeal.

Extinction Rebellion activist Brown, 57, from Exeter, Devon, was jailed by a judge at Southwark Crown Court in September after being convicted of causing a public nuisance at an earlier trial.

Lawyers representing Brown on Wednesday challenged his conviction and sentence at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

They said there had been “no reason” to charge Brown with causing a public nuisance, questioned the “proportionality” of the decision to bring the charge, and said he could have been charged with aggravated trespass.

Three appeal judges, Lord Burnett – the Lord Chief Justice – Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Goss, are considering the case.

The appeal hearing is due last a day.

Judge Gregory Perrins had jailed Brown, who has been registered blind since birth.

He said, when passing sentence, that Brown had “cynically used” his disability and put his “own life at risk” to carry out the stunt at London City Airport on October 10 2019.

The double gold medallist, from Exeter, climbed on to the plane, which was destined for Amsterdam, before gluing his right hand to the aircraft and wedging his mobile phone in the door to prevent it from closing.

Mr Brown, who represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before going on to represent Ireland in cross-country skiing, livestreamed the protest until he was removed after an hour.

Southwark Crown Court heard a total of 337 passengers had their flights cancelled, missing birthday celebrations, important business meetings and family events, with the disruption costing the airline around £40,000.

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.

But he was found guilty, in July, after a jury deliberated for less than an hour.

Judge Gregory Perrins had told Brown: “It is important that those who are tempted to seriously disrupt the lives of ordinary members of the public in the way that you did and then seek to justify it in the name of protest understand that they will face serious consequences.

“There is a clear dividing line between legitimate protest and deliberate offending, and you knowingly crossed it.”

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