Four eco activists who sabotaged an international cycling race by gluing themselves to the road walked free from court yesterday after a sheriff said he ‘understood’ why they had done it.
Catriona Roberts, 21, Rebecca Kerr, 28, Romane Moulin, 26, and Ben Taylor, 29, brought the Men’s Elite Road Race to a grinding halt in August, delaying the event by almost an hour.
All four were convicted of breach of the peace following a trial at Falkirk Sheriff Court.
But despite disrupting the prestigious UCI cycling world championships as it was held in and around Glasgow earlier this year, Sheriff Grant McCulloch admonished the three women and said: ‘I understand why you did what you did.’
He fined Taylor £250 after hearing he had previously been convicted of similar offences.
The court was told that the actions of all four protesters, from anti-oil group This Is Rigged, amounted to a breach of the peace.
The sheriff dismissed a submission from Taylor that his actions had been justified ‘like the Suffragettes’, saying: ‘The Suffragettes were convicted.’
A trial heard that the protesters – who had been spotted ‘dishevelled’ and hiding in bushes beside the narrow road in the Carron Valley, Stirlingshire, before the UCI peloton was due to pass – took less than 30 seconds to set off pink powder cannons, pour superglue on their hands and stick themselves to the tarmac.
Taylor and Kerr sat back to back, locked together by a cycling D-lock round their necks – the keys to which Taylor had thrown into the grass verge. Moulin and Roberts locked themselves together with a large bike chain.
The incident happened on the B818 road near the Carronbridge Hotel, Denny, causing the race to be paused with just over 118 miles of the 168-mile route remaining.
Sheriff McCulloch said he did not consider a defence of necessity or justification had been made.
He said: ‘It is an explanation of why the crime was committed, not a special defence or an excuse.
‘I accept all four have firmly held views and beliefs but protests must be proportionate and peaceful. This was the latter, but not the former.’
But he added: ‘I clearly understand why the accused acted as they did.
‘Indeed many would think their actions to be applauded.
‘Many would disagree and argue that such behaviour has no place in a democratic society.
‘Miss Roberts, Miss Moulin and Miss Kerr – you are all admonished, as you are first offenders and I understand why you did what you did, although in my view it broke the law.’
Fining Taylor, who has seven similar convictions in England, he told him: ‘You appear to be becoming a bit of an over-professional activist and protester.’