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Extinction Rebellion campaigners ordered to pay compensation to RNLI after rig protest

Extinction Rebellion protesters, from left,  Joanne Venables, Federico Pastoris, Fiona Cormie, Alison Orr, Marco Tenconi, Guy Bowen and Mark Quinn.
Extinction Rebellion protesters, from left, Joanne Venables, Federico Pastoris, Fiona Cormie, Alison Orr, Marco Tenconi, Guy Bowen and Mark Quinn.

A group of Extinction Rebellion activists who occupied an oil rig at the Port of Dundee have been ordered to pay compensation to the RNLI.

Police, coastguard and Forth Ports incurred £30,000 worth of costs as a result of the group’s actions on the Valaris rig’s 300ft platform in January last year.

The activists were hoping to stop the rig leaving the port to carry out work in the North Sea for Shell.

Federico Pastoris, 26, Marco Tenconi, 25, Guy Bowen, 33, Mark Quinn, 23, Fiona Cormie, 27, Joanne Venables, 37 and Alison Orr, 29, all previously pled guilty to committing a breach of the peace at Dundee Sheriff Court.

Protesters scale the rig at Dundee’s port

Today, all seven were ordered to pay £250 in compensation to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Sheriff’s peaceful COP26 relief

Sheriff Grant McCulloch had deferred sentence on the activists for them to be of good behaviour after raising concerns that they would become involved in protests at the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

“I asked you to be of good behaviour, bearing in mind there was to be – and has been – the COP26 conference in Glasgow, which may have been a focal point for protest,” the sheriff said.

“That passed off extremely peacefully. I was pleased about that.

“Thank you for staying away and thank you for getting on with your lives.

“Whether you choose to continue your protests in a peaceful way is entirely a matter for you.

“I have no opposition whatsoever to the message you all tried to send, merely the way in which you tried to send it, causing the coastguard, police and lifeboat services considerable concern, expense and effort to ensure your own safety.

“If you go too far and endanger yourselves, you then endanger others.

“That’s, frankly, what happened here.

“I believe it’s appropriate that a contribution is made by each and every one of you to the RNLI.”

Weather forced full-scale call-out

The court was previously told how the deputy port manager became aware of the activists using an inflatable boat to access the rig.

Fiscal depute Emily Hood said: “He witnessed all of the accused there and struggling to stand on the boat.

“Given the harsh conditions of the weather, he was concerned for their safety and the Coastguard was contacted.

“A short time later, Cormie, Venables and Orr gained access and climbed the leg of the rig.”

Police at the scene last January

The boat carrying the rest of the activists returned to shore and they were arrested by police.

Cormie, Venables and Orr climbed up to the 300ft-high platform and remained there for around four hours.

Deteriorating weather caused them to descend and they were later arrested.

Pastoris, who now lives in Italy; Tenconi, of Edinburgh; Quinn, of Aberdeen; Bowen, of Horsted Keynes, West Sussex; Orr, of Dundee; Venables, of Edinburgh; and Cormie, of Nairn, previously pled guilty to committing a breach of the peace.

They admitted conducting themselves in a disorderly manner on January 6, 2020 by navigating the River Tay on an inflatable boat when it was unsafe, boarding or assisting others to board a platform without authority, refusing to leave, attaching themselves to a platform several hundred feet in the air, remaining there for a number of hours, placing themselves in danger and causing disruption and inconvenience to other harbour users.

Protesters climbed high onto one of the legs of the rig, towering above Port of Dundee.

Bowen was the only one absent from court on Monday, with solicitor Clare Ryan explaining he had been told to isolate by track and trace.

All seven were ordered to pay £250 in compensation to the RNLI.

All bar Pastoris, who was admonished, were also fined £150.

Following the outcome of the case, an RNLI spokeswoman said: “The RNLI is an a-political organisation with the founding goal of saving lives at sea.

“Whenever lives are deemed at risk, we will be tasked by the coastguard and will launch to help save those lives.

“We launch without judgement or prejudice, our crews (the majority of whom are volunteers) selflessly give up their time to ensure the safety of others.

“We are funded entirely by the generosity of the general public and rely on their donations to fund our lifesaving work.

“This decision is certainly a rare one and we thank the courts for their consideration, the most important outcome, however, remains that no lives were lost.”

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