May 30, 2024
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By Henry Bodkin

Members of Extinction rebellion sprayed green color onto the building in central London.

Extinction rebellion “reckless” activists spray-painted The Telegraph’s offices, claiming they were trying to minimize damage. They walked out of court without being charged.

The two used extinguishers and spray paint to cover the Daily Mail, News UK (which publishes The Sun) as part of an entire day of protests.

Matthew Hempstock (49), and Benedict Mango (56) were caught on CCTV moving pedestrians to the side before painting large sections of The Telegraph building’s front in central London.

The “minimal” damages were outweighed by protesting against climate change.

City of London Magistrates’ Court, however, heard that although the green paint was aimed at the tall windows of the stone façade, it had been splashed on the surface. Some of the paint has proven impossible to remove after three attempts.

Steven Jonas is the district judge who rejected both pleas of not guilty. He fined each defendant PS275 and added PS465 to their costs plus an additional surcharge.

‘Good opportunity’

Mango said to the court the tall five windows on the building’s front near Victoria Station provided “a good opportunity for an impact large”.

His accomplice, however, admitted that they had not achieved the desired effect because of the over-pressure on the fire extinguishers used to spray the green paint.

Hempstock said that “the force with which the paint came from the extinguisher may have been higher than should have,”

Because of the pressure inside the extinguisher, almost all the paint ended up on the first window.

On the first and second windows, it was almost a jet.

Hempstock said: “It was our intention to minimize the damages from the beginning.

We wanted to avoid painting the stone surround as much as possible.

They pointed out Extinction Rebellion sent an independent team to assist with the cleanup.

‘Two ladies’

According to Elizabeth Onaji the manager of the front of house at the building this was “two women” carrying two-litre water bottles wearing high visibility clothing.

The paint was several meters high, on both the surrounding stones and glass.

One of the women said, “it would be much easier for you if I had a brush”, said Ms. Onaji.

She said: “I would not classify it [as peaceful protest] because it was disruptive and the people did not know what was happening.”

Jonathan Bryan, the prosecutor in this case, accused both of a scattergun approach.

In cross-examination, he told Hempstock: “You claimed you did not want to damage anything. If that were true, you would have avoided using fire extinguishers.”

It was inevitable, I think, that there would be some residue on the stone.

He told the court that the defendants were “caught green-handed” when the police arrived on the scene.

Saville’s had to clean the entire facade of the building within a year and replace anti-graffiti films on the lower surfaces, which would cost thousands.

Undermining science

Mango explained their motivation: “We are doing this because climate change affects us all and the Daily Telegraph publishes articles that undermine science.”

According to Mr Bryan, the test for determining whether the law applies is to weigh the damage done to the building versus the right of protest rather than the “end” of the world.

The district judge Jonas stated that the defendants who appeared in court on their own behalf had made “very significant efforts” to minimize damage.

The judge said that both men were guilty of criminal damages. He called their actions “reckless”.

The six-month conditional release was imposed by the judge, in recognition of their six-months spent on bail.

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