A KENDAL Just Stop Oil Protestor has been found guilty of attempting to cause criminal damage

Former Museum worker Margaret Reid, 53, of Kendal and home energy adviser Edred Whittingham, 26, known as Eddie, were both found guilty at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on Friday of causing criminal damage after a one-day trial.

Whittingham who jumped on a table during the World Snooker Championships and covered it with orange powder told a judge his actions were “reasonable and proportionate in the light of the greater threat we are facing from the climate crisis”.

A district judge was shown TV footage of Whittingham interrupting a match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry on April 17 2023 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

Wearing a Just Stop Oil T-shirt, the defendant could be seen releasing the orange substance – which he told the court was dyed corn starch powder – and kneeling amid the balls on the table before being pulled off by security.

The clip shown to the court went on to show Reid trying to do the same thing on the other table, on the other side of the barrier in the theatre, but she is tackled by referee Olivier Marteel before she can get on the table.

Whittingham denied causing £899.90 damage to a snooker table, owned by the firm Xingpai, and Reid denied attempting to cause criminal damage.

But they were both found guilty of the offences by District Judge Daniel Curtis on Friday afternoon. They will be sentenced at later date.

Giving evidence on Friday, Whittingham told the court he bought a ticket about a month before the incident, agreeing that it cost him more than £300 because he was wanted to be in a good position in the auditorium.

He said he had planned the protest in order to draw attention to Just Stop Oil’s campaign to change the Government’s policy on oil and gas extraction, which he told the court was “breaking the law”.

Whittingham said: “I didn’t intend to cause damage, I intended to cause disruption.”

He said “I accept there was a risk that damage could take place”, adding that he thought it was “highly possible that (the powder) would be wiped off, or hoovered off, without causing significant damage to the baize or the table.”

Pressed by Alison Goldsmith, prosecuting, about whether he foresaw the risk of damage to the table, Whittingham said: “I judged that risk to be proportionate in the light of the existential threat we face from the climate crisis.”

He agreed that his actions caused inconvenience to those who attended for “peaceful enjoyment” and to the organisers of tournament, who had to abandon play for the day on the table he targeted.

But the defendant told the district judge: “I consider it reasonable and proportionate in the light of the greater threat we are facing from the climate crisis.”

He told the court he minimised the disruption caused by not attaching himself to the table and complying with security and the police once he was off the table.

Giving her evidence, Reid cited her long experience as a conservator in the museum sector, saying she believed any powder could have been easily removed without causing damage.

She described it as an “unpleasant and scary thing to do” but said she had been driven to an “outrageous and disruptive act such as this”.

Reid said she had “no other effective options” open to her to halt the “pain and death and misery” that climate change will bring.

She said: “We need shaking out of our stupor.

“We need a shock. We need an action like we took to make us jump out of the pan.”

Reid said: “What is there that ordinary, powerless individuals can do?”

She said she has protested “politely” in the past, voted and written to her MP but “it hasn’t worked”.

“There’s no longer time to take this slowly and chip away,” she said.

Reid said: “I didn’t set out to cause criminal damage. I set out to draw attention to the dire situation that we are in.”

Asked about the impact of her actions on the people who had paid to watch a snooker match, the defendant said: “I’m really sorry about that but I was really aware that these same individuals would be so much worse affected by the impact of fossil fuels.”

Whittingham, of May Street, Exeter, and Reid, of Low Fellside, Kendal, Cumbria, were given unconditional bail and will be sentenced at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on July 10.

Judge Curtis said he had to consider the defendants’ rights under Article 10 – freedom of expression – and Article 11 – freedom of assembly and association – of the Human Rights Act but he stressed this did not provide “blanket immunity”.

The district judge said he would give a more detailed summary of his reasoning at a later date.

Max Hinchcliffe, of the Crown Prosecution Service Yorkshire & Humberside, said: “Edred Whittingham and Margaret Reid showed an utter lack of thought or care for the players at the tournament or the fans watching from across the world.

“The law upholds the right to protest but this must be balanced against the rights of others and this case shows that when lawful protest crosses the line into criminality we won’t hesitate to prosecute offenders.”