Nigel Harvey, the CEO of lighting industry compliance scheme Recolight, was found guilty of wilful obstruction of the highway at the City of London magistrates’ court today (17 February).
Having pleaded not guilty, he was given a nine-month ‘conditional discharge’ and ordered to pay costs of £331.
Mr Harvey was arrested on 7 October 2019 during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London (see letsrecycle.com story). After spending a night in Wood Green police station, he was released and subsequently charged with wilful obstruction of the highway.
[Updated 18/02 to reflect Mr Harvey was handed a ‘conditional discharge’, not a suspended sentence]
Representing himself and speaking in court via video link today, he said: “For the last dozen or so years, like many others I know, I’ve done my best to reduce my carbon footprint. I run a recycling company. I’ve written to my MP. I’ve signed petitions. And yet, the emissions keep increasing.
“Science tells us that within 30 years, the climate emergency will result in millions of deaths, every year. It will result in irreversible destruction of the natural world, and the gradual collapse of our societies arising from widespread famines, flooding, fires, and sea level rises.
“Successive governments have failed to put policies in place that will prevent climate catastrophe. So, what else could I do except find the most impactful way to blow the whistle on the inaction of our politicians? In which universe could it possibly be morally justifiable to ignore those facts? That is what made my actions necessary.”
Mr Harvey has been CEO of Recolight since 2009. He is also chair of the WEEE Scheme Forum trade association.
“There is not a day goes by that I do not worry about the climate emergency”
His statement in court continued: “There is not a day goes by that I do not worry about the climate emergency. I think about the risks to my three adult children. I know the climate emergency means they may not reach old age. All three of them are resilient and adaptable. But that may not be enough.
“Once I understood the Extinction Rebellion strategy of using non-violent civil disobedience as a way of pressuring politicians to act, I was completely committed. Exactly the same tactics were used by the independence movement in India and the civil rights movement in the US. Thousands of US civil rights activists, mainly African Americans, were arrested. They were brought before courts and punished. Many were jailed. They are now regarded as brave crusaders for justice.”
Mr Harvey was also arrested at an Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square on 1 September 2020. He was “seated peacefully” on the ground when arrested, wearing a mask, and socially distanced from other protesters. He was taken to Sutton police station and released the same day “under investigation”.
Founded in May 2018, Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to compel government action to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.
In November 2020, the movement sent an open letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to decarbonise the waste sector and halt the expansion of energy from waste (EfW) plants in the UK (see letsrecycle.com story). The Environmental Services Association (ESA) hit back at the letter, arguing it presented a “deeply flawed” and “misleading” analysis of EfW in the UK (see letsrecycle.com story).