Climate activist Greta Thunberg acquitted after London protest trial

A judge ruled police in the UK had no power to arrest Greta Thunberg.
A judge ruled police in the UK had no power to arrest Greta Thunberg. Photo credit: Getty Images

Climate activist Greta Thunberg was on Friday cleared of a public order offence as a judge ruled police had no power to arrest her during a protest outside an oil and gas conference in London last year.

Thunberg, who became a prominent campaigner worldwide after staging weekly protests in front of the Swedish parliament in 2018, was acquitted at Westminster Magistrates' Court to applause and cheering by supporters in the court.

The 21-year-old and four others were among dozens of people arrested on Oct. 17 outside a London hotel where the Energy Intelligence Forum was hosting oil and gas industry leaders.

All five defendants were accused of failing to comply with an order by police to move their protest to a designated area near the conference, an offence under the Public Order Act.

But Judge John Law ruled that police acted unlawfully in imposing conditions on the protest and that therefore Thunberg had no case to answer.

He said that police could have imposed lesser restrictions on the protest and the conditions that were imposed were not clear.

Law also said Thunberg was not "given anything like a reasonable time to comply" after police told her to move.

Thunberg and her four co-defendants hugged before leaving court.

Friday's ruling throws into doubt other prosecutions of those charged with failing to comply with police conditions at the Oct. 17 demonstration.

Prosecutors, who are likely to seek an adjournment of a similar trial starting next week, can bring an appeal at the High Court against Friday's decision.