Former Paralympian found guilty of causing public nuisance in plane protest

·2-min read

A former Paralympic athlete who superglued himself to the roof of a British Airways plane has been found guilty of causing a public nuisance.

Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown, 56, who is registered blind, managed to scale the plane on the morning of October 10 2019 to stage a protest against flying at London City Airport.

The double gold medallist, from Exeter, glued his right hand to the plane, which was destined for Amsterdam, before wedging his mobile phone in the door to prevent it from closing, Southwark Crown Court has heard.

Northern Ireland-born Brown, who represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before going on to represent Ireland in cross-country skiing, spent an hour on the aircraft before he was removed, the jury was told.

Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown on top of a plane on October 10 2019 during a protest
Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown on top of a plane on October 10 2019 during a protest (Extinction Rebellion/PA)

Prosecutors said he caused disruption to more than 300 British Airways passengers, costing the airline £40,000.

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

But he was found guilty on Wednesday after a jury deliberated for less than an hour.

Judge Gregory Perrins said he would sentence Brown on September 17.

Speaking after the verdict, Brown said he was “gutted”, adding: “But I guess it is the price you pay for taking a risk, I guess it could’ve gone the other way.

“I knew that a conviction was a possibility, of course, I knew that.

“What I did was only a very small part. There are a lot of people giving up a lot to make a difference and I’m only one of them.”

James Brown (Extinction Rebellion/PA)
James Brown (Extinction Rebellion/PA)

The jury 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 said.

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, Brown 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.”

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