Seven XR activists, all women, were found guilty last November of committing nearly £100,000 of criminal damage at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf. The two week trial resulted from an action in April 2021, when they used hammers to carefully crack large safety glass windows at the front of the building. The action was a peaceful reference to Suffragette actions which succeeded in changing laws and giving women the vote in the 20th century.
Their action and subsequent press attention aimed to highlight Barclays’ role in global heating. It is the UK and Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels, and despite a 2021 announcement by the International Energy Agency that there should be no new oil, gas or coal development in order to meet a 2050 Net Zero objective, the bank has invested more than $19 billion since then, and more than $166 billion since the Paris Climate Agreement.
Today, the seven women returned to Southwark Crown Court for sentencing, with the possibility of huge fines and imprisonment on the table. Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of the famous Suffragette, joined more than a hundred women in a solidarity march from the Bank of England to the court.
Activists were relieved when the news came, around 4.30, that they had variously received sentences of between six and eight months, but that these were unconditionally suspended for two years, meaning that they have walked away free as long as they don’t commit further offences in that period. Each have only to pay £500 court costs over a period of a year, and a crowdfunder has been set up to help with this.
The bad news is that Barclays also walks free despite its continuing support for climate and ecological destruction. If you bank with them, you may want to consider switching to a greener institution.