Two KCL campaigners face jail sentence
One KCL student and one former student are due to appear in Crown Court at the beginning of November charged with criminal damage, following a protest over fossil fuel divestment and climate change.
The charges are in relation to a protest at the beginning of last year organised by the university campaigning group, King’s College Climate Emergency (KCCE). The students painted messages on the walls of the main hall in KCL’s Strand Campus.
Despite the students using chalk based spray paint, which are designed to clean off with water, the costs for cleaning amounted to over £5,000. The protesters had brought water, soap and clothes to clean the paint after the protest but were prevented in doing so by campus security.
The direct action was part of a wider campaign to get KCL to the university to divest from companies profiting from oil companies and environmentally damaging practices. A 2013 FOI request found that King’s have £8m worth of investments in companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell and PetroChina, but in September 2016 the university agreed to partially divest.
Following a later hunger strike by one of the students involved, Roger Hallam, KCL agreed to completely divest from all fossil fuels by 2022, and by 2025 be a fully carbon neutral institution.
Hallam, who is researching a Phd on campaigning and political mobilisation, believed this was then put to rest until he received summons from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in April this year. Three other students were involved but two pleaded guilty and have been fined £1,000. The other person appearing in court, Dave Durant, graduated last year.
Criminal charges in the UK are bought at the behest of the CPS, not necessarily on the behalf of the ‘victim’, who in this case would be KCL.
The university are in the position to write a letter to the CPS saying they do want the matter to go further. Although a letter would not guarantee the case is thrown out, according to advice received from a solicitor, it would significantly help Hallam and Durant’s case.
Following a ‘heated’ meeting last week between faculty staff and Edward Byrne, the university’s Principal, it has been agreed that a letter would be sent. As of yet nothing has been sent.
If KCL continues to refuse to send a letter, Hallam has said he will quit the university and urge colleagues there to do the same. He said “I’m ready for it. Whatever it takes. This is a climate emergency.”
Climate change has been thrust back into the spotlight following a recent report from the UN that claims globally we have only 12 years to massively reduce carbon emissions before risking drought, floods and poverty. In Hallam’s words, “If this isn’t an international crisis, I don’t know what is.”
KCL were approached by London Student for comment. They acknowledged the issue but refused to discuss ongoing legal proceedings.