04/03/2024 2:05 PM

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Blind Paralympian who glued himself to roof of British Airways plane jailed

Former two-time gold medallist James Brown, who represented himself during his trial, was jailed today after costing British Airways £40,000 and disrupting 300 passengers

A former Paralympian and Extinction Rebellion activist who glued himself to the roof a plane has been jailed for a year.

On October 10 2019, athlete James Brown, 56, managed to climb onto the British Airways aircraft and superglued himself to its roof as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest against flying at London City Airport.

Brown, who is completely blind and had previously been awarded two gold medals for Great Britain in cycling and athletics, glued his right hand on the plane that was headed to Amsterdam.

He had also pushed his mobile phone into the door to stop it from closing, and was able to hold the plane up for an hour before being removed.

Northern Ireland-born Brown had also gone on to represent Ireland in cross-country skiing, but was arrested after he caused disruption to more than 300 British Airways passengers, costing the airline £40,000.







Brown is completely blind and had previously been awarded two gold medals for Great Britain in cycling and athletics
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Image:

Adam Gray SWNS)

Brown represented himself during his trial and denied one count of causing a public nuisance, claiming he had “to do something spectacular” to draw attention to the climate crisis.

On Friday 24 September, he was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court in July after a jury deliberated for less than an hour and Judge Gregory Perrins sentenced him to 12 months’ imprisonment, of which he will serve half.

He told Brown: “The right to protest does not entitle you to cause major widespread disruption to a major airport… simply because you think it is the right thing to do.”







Brown had refused assistance to get him to his seat, instead telling cabin crew that he was going to climb on top of the plane
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Image:

Adam Gray SWNS)

Judge Perrins said: “This is a case in which you acted together with at least 10 other activists to plan and execute a major act of disruption.

“You intended to cause the maximum amount of disruption possible at the airport if not shut it down completely.”

The judge told “accomplished athlete” Brown: “You cynically used your disability to put your plan into action”, adding: “You put your own life at risk by climbing on top of the plane.”

He said he accepted Brown was motivated “by a desire to bring about a change you genuinely believe is for the benefit of all” and that there must be a “sense of proportionality” when sentencing those who commit offences during a protest


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But he told Brown there is “no entitlement to more lenient treatment” because he was protesting about the environment.

The court heard that Brown had booked his flight on the morning of the stunt and had been offered assistance boarding due to his disability.

He had a bottle of superglue in his luggage that had not been detected by security, prosecutor Richard Witcombe told the jury during Brown’s trial.

Brown declined an offer by a member of cabin staff to help him to his seat, telling her that he was going to climb on to the roof of the plane.

Giving evidence, he wept as he told jurors: “I was prepared to challenge myself, to be scared, to face the fear, because the fear of climate ecological breakdown is so much greater.”

In an emotional speech, married father-of-four Brown, who runs a charity, said: “My protest, the purpose I hope is clear, my motivation was to maximise media attention to the climate crisis, which back at that time was hardly receiving any.”







The Paralympian will serve half of his one-year sentence
(

Image:

Adam Gray SWNS)

Tim Maloney QC, defending Brown at his sentencing hearing, said: “He has expressed an intention not to become involved in unlawful protest again.”

Mr Maloney said Brown has “overcome the barriers to live a successful and inspiring life”, competing at five Paralympic games and becoming a successful businessman.

“There is so much more to his life than sporting excellence,” he said as he described Brown’s career as a maths teacher before working for Gloucestershire County council in disabled children’s services.

He also built a conference centre aimed at meeting the needs of disabled people and set up Mobiloo, a company which provides facilities for disabled people at festivals and events.


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