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Morgan Trowland and Marcus Decker receive prison sentences after climbing the M25 bridge last year. part-time

Activists jailed over Dartford Crossing protest

Two Just Stop Oil protesters who scaled the Dartford Crossing bridge have been jailed.

Morgan Trowland, 40, of Islington, north London, and Marcus Decker, 34, of no fixed address, were suspended over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge for about 37 hours in October.

The pair argued during the trial it was a peaceful protest but were found guilty of causing a public nuisance.

Trowland was jailed for three years and Decker for two years and seven months.

Judge Shane Collery KC said the pair "plainly believed you knew better" than other people and were thinking "to hell with everyone else".

"You have to be punished for the chaos you caused and to deter others from copying you," he said, as he sentenced them at Southend Crown Court.

The trial heard how the defendants scaled the bridge's cables at about 04:00 BST on 17 October last year, reaching a height of about 200ft (60m).

Prosecutors described how they unfurled a Just Stop Oil-branded banner and "rigged up hammocks".

Essex Police used a "very tall cherry picker crane" to bring the pair down by about 17:30 the following day.

The bridge, which usually takes traffic southbound over the River Thames on the A282 connecting the M25 motorway between Essex and Kent, was reopened at about 21:00 - 41 hours after the demonstration began.

Prosecutors said the closure caused "gridlock for miles around" and delayed almost 565,000 drivers.

Giving evidence, Trowland said: "We climbed it to deliver a warning message - to put up a banner saying 'Just Stop Oil' and to speak that message through interviews with journalists."

Essex Police claimed small businesses lost hundreds of thousands of pounds, including one that estimated losing up to £170,000 in earnings.

The force also referenced a heavily pregnant woman who needed urgent medical help; a child with additional needs who could not access medication and a person who missed a best friend's funeral.

Ch Supt Simon Anslow, from Essex Police, described the campaigners actions as "juvenile and dangerous".

The two defence barristers said neither of their clients intended to conduct further disruptive protests.

Jacob Bindman said Trowland, a structural engineer, had "in his words done his bit" and did not want to spend more time in prison.

Rebecca Martin for Decker, whose client is a German citizen and works as a private tutor, said the protest "wasn't his idea" and he was not part of the initial planning for the demonstration.

Just Stop Oil claimed the demonstration was in protest against new government gas and oil licences.

Spokesperson Rachel Bosler, said: "I am absolutely horrified and disgusted by what has happened here today, it's absolutely not justice.

"Our criminal government has been found guilty of breaking their own climate change legislation in the High Court and yet they face no penalties and no sentences."

Ms Bosler was referring to a ruling in July last year in which a judge said the government's net-zero strategy breached obligations under the Climate Change Act.

Trowland and Decker, who have been on remand since their arrest, were told on Friday they would serve half of their term in custody.

Both appeared shocked when the sentences were read out.

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