Embargo-busting barrister fined £5,000 for Supreme Court contempt

Crosland: Action justified

The barrister who broke the embargo on a Supreme Court ruling “as an act of civil disobedience” was fined £5,000 for contempt of court yesterday.

Tim Crosland, who argued that his action was justified, used the unprecedented hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice – presided over by three Supreme Court justices – to amplify his complaints about the government’s actions of Heathrow’s third runway.

A non-practising barrister, Mr Crosland is director of Plan B, a charity that supports strategic legal action against climate change.

He leaked the decision, which opened the way to Heathrow’s third runway and he described as deeply immoral, the night before it was handed down. He and was found in criminal contempt of court following an application made by the Attorney General, Michael Ellis.

Mr Crosland could have been jailed and arrived at court saying he was ready to go to prison as a “small price to pay for the truth coming out”.

He explained: “That story is about the government’s suppression of evidence of the real risks of Heathrow expansion.

“So if you do something that would ordinarily be a breach of the law but the purpose of that is to prevent a much greater harm, and in this case to prevent the public being misled about the dangers of Heathrow expansion, then according to the law that is not a crime.

“And today everyone is going to hear the government knew Heathrow expansion would breach the Paris temperature limit of 1.5 degrees. That is the real story.”

The court said contempt was never justified and suggested his action was futile because the ruling was published hours later. The full contempt decision has yet to be published.

Mr Ellis said: “His actions undermined our legal process and he acted in full knowledge of the likely consequences. It is right that the Supreme Court agreed and held him accountable for his actions.”

Mr Crosland can appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. He has also said that he expects to be disbarred.

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