Norfolk

Climate change protestor guilty of Norfolk council meeting disruption

Robert Possnett Image copyright Extinction Rebellion Norwich
Image caption Robert Possnett was found guilty of being disorderly and disrupting a county council meeting

A man who disrupted a council meeting in protest over a new road has been found guilty of acting in a disorderly manner at a public meeting.

Robert Possnett, 57, of Great Barton, Suffolk, was with climate change activists who invaded Norfolk County Council's budget session in February.

He was found guilty under the Public Meeting Act of 1908, for preventing the meeting from going ahead.

Possnett was given a 12-month conditional discharge.

District Judge Paul Booty told him: "You have a good heart. It is a great shame you have taken things further in this instance."

Norwich Magistrates' Court was shown police bodycam footage of the defendant being handcuffed in the main council chamber on 11 February and being applauded by other climate change protesters as he was led out by officers.

They had occupied the chamber by linking arms and chanting "Extinction Rebellion" and "people have the power" just before the meeting started, the court heard.

Image copyright Extinction Rebellion Norwich
Image caption The Norfolk County Council meeting was disrupted by a group of climate change activists, including Possnett

Councillor Margaret Stone, who was chairing the meeting, told judge she could not be heard because of the chanting and singing.

"I felt slightly angry," she said. "This was stopping democracy."

The meeting was adjourned for four hours.

Asked by the defence why he protested at the meeting, former paratrooper Possnett said: "To raise the issue of impending climate disaster.

"The council was still carrying on and increasing air pollution by adding another road."

The demonstration was against the proposed link road in the environmentally sensitive Wensum Valley between the Broadland Northway and the A47.

Image copyright Norfolk County Council
Image caption The yellow box indicates the area under consideration for a new link road

The court was told Possnett had two degrees in philosophy, had worked for the World Bank, the department for international development and given advice in Bosnia and Sudan as a justice expert.

He is now a stay-at-home dad with three teenage children.

As well as the discharge he was ordered to pay costs totalling £370.

After the hearing, Possnett told the BBC he would be taking "direct action" again since "it was a matter of conscience".

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