Ex-Ireland Paralympian ‘glued himself to plane in climate protest’

Extinction Rebellion activist allegedly caused disruption costing firm €40,000, court hears

James Brown allegedly caused scuff marks to the exterior of the aircraft door when he jammed his phone into it. Photograph: PA

James Brown allegedly caused scuff marks to the exterior of the aircraft door when he jammed his phone into it. Photograph: PA

 

A former Paralympic athlete who superglued himself to the roof of a British Airways plane destined for Amsterdam at London City Airport caused disruption costing the firm £40,000, a court has heard.

Extinction Rebellion activist James Brown (56) who is registered blind, managed to scale the aircraft on the morning of October 10th, 2019, to stage a protest against flying. The double gold medallist, from Exeter, glued his right hand to the plane before wedging his mobile phone in the door to prevent it from closing, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Northern Ireland-born Mr Brown, who represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before going on to represent Ireland in cross-country skiing, spent an hour on the aircraft before he was removed, the jury were told.

Mr Brown denies one count of causing a public nuisance and is representing himself at trial.

The flight to Amsterdam was cancelled while several others were delayed, costing British Airways £31,000 to rebook and compensate passengers, the jury was told.

It cost a further £10,000 to reschedule the Amsterdam flight, and £1,100 to conduct a risk assessment of the plane, the court heard.

Richard Witcombe, prosecuting, said in opening: “Mr Brown travelled to London City Airport with the intention of participating in a protest as part of the movement Extinction Rebellion. Prior to his arrival at the airport that day, it appears that he had been in communication with other people who sympathise with the movement, communicating partly at least through WhatsApp.”

The jury heard that Mr Brown had booked his flight on the morning of the stunt and had been offered assistance boarding due to his disability.

He had a bottle of superglue in his luggage that had not been detected by security, said Mr Witcombe.

Police on the scene

Mr Brown declined an offer by a member of cabin staff to help him to his seat, telling her that he was going to climb on to the roof of the plane.

“The [cabin crew] initially thought it was said in jest, but in the seconds that followed that is in fact what he did,” said Mr Witcombe.

Mr Brown told the first two police officers on the scene that he would not get down of his own accord but that he would not resist them if they tried to remove him, the court heard.

As well as the superglue, the defendant also allegedly caused scuff marks to the exterior of the plane door when he jammed his phone into it.

“This might seem insignificant but you will hear witnesses who will point out that these things are all of great significance when you are dealing with the integrity of an aircraft,” said Mr Witcombe.

The court heard that during the protest, some of the surrounding stands were closed as well as the taxiing area of the airport, while an extra set of steps were positioned to break Mr Brown’s fall if he were to slip off the roof.

His hand was eventually unstuck using anti-freeze after a hour on the aircraft.

The trial, which is expected to last three days, continues. – PA