Extinction Rebellion activists found not guilty of £28,000 damage to Schlumberger Cambridge
Two Extinction Rebellion activists were found not guilty of £28,000 damage to Schlumberger Cambridge.
Marcus Lugg and Christopher Ford had been accused of of damaging the external shutters of the building by hitting them with drumsticks and lifting them up during a samba band performance at a climate protest in July 2020. The protest took place at the Schlumberger‘s (SLB) Cambridge fossil fuel research centre, which is situated on the University of Cambridge’s West Site on Madingley Road.
The pair were arrested along with three other people at the site, where activities include the development of new and improved ways of extracting oil and gas, producing technology which is then used by companies such as Shell, BP and Total to produce fossil fuels.
In Cambridge Crown Court on Wednesday, May 17, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it intended to offer no evidence. It confirmed that a key witness could not be located to provide evidence for the prosecution, which meant there was not a realistic prospect of conviction.
This resulted in the judge finding both of them not guilty.
At this point, the case had been ongoing for almost three years. Lugg and Ford were initially charged almost a year after they had been arrested before being subjected to a magistrates’ court hearing, then a Crown court hearing, and then having their trial set for November 2021, then February 2022, June 2022, November 2022, and finally November 2023.
Lugg said: “I can’t believe this ridiculous case has gone on so long. I remember when I received the charge in the post accusing me of £28,000 of damage – my blood went cold. I couldn’t understand how I could possibly have caused that with a wooden drumstick weighing just 45g. Everyone around me thought that the trial was politically motivated to silence and scare us so that we wouldn’t go back and make more noise about Schlumberger’s relentless fossil fuel extraction and cosy relationship with the University of Cambridge.
“This experience has made me very happy to share the news that, since XR Cambridge started their Schlumberger Out! campaign in 2021, their open letter to remove SLB from Cambridge has had over 1,800 signatures, including Sir Mark Rylance, Rowan Williams, and hundreds of local people and organisations. Before the campaign, most people thought SLB was a tech company and not the world’s biggest fossil fuel extraction company – they don’t think that anymore. It feels like SLB have backed down because of this increased public awareness.”
SLB was invited to comment on the verdict.