Sheffield snooker protesters: Just Stop Oil activist says criminal conviction 'absolutely worth it'

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A Just Stop Oil activist whose protest halted the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield has said his criminal conviction was ‘absolutely worth it’.

Edred Whittingham interrupted a match during last year’s tournament in April 2023 by jumping on the table wearing a Just Stop Oil T-shirt and covering the baize with orange powder.

Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard how ex-museum worker Margaret Reid had tried to do the same thing on the other table but was tackled by referee Olivier Marteel.

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Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Whittingham, a 26-year-old home energy adviser, of May Street, Exeter, was found guilty of causing £899.90 damage to a snooker table, while Reid, aged 53, of Low Fellside, Kendal, Cumbria, was convicted of attempted criminal damage.

Sentencing them to a combined 300 hours of unpaid work, District Judge Daniel Curtis warned the pair today, Wednesday, July 10, that if they continue with their unlawful protests ‘custody is not far away and is almost inevitable’.

‘It was worth it for the publicity’

Speaking outside the court, Whittingham said he was willing to go to prison.

“I’ve been to prison twice before and it’s not going to deter us because we’re facing a climate crisis,” he told reporters.

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Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Whittingham said the protest got on to the front pages of numerous national newspapers and “got billions of views all around the world”, adding “in that context it was absolutely worth it”.

He told reporters: “It didn’t feel pleasant, I didn’t want to jump on the snooker table that day but in the context of hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation, poverty, disease, absolutely it was worth it for the publicity.”

A victim impact statement from Simon Brownell, the chief executive of the World Snooker Tour, said the defendants had tried to “destroy” the event “without a care in the world for the thousands of people who had saved their money to attend the event”.

“The only way to protect our cultural and sporting institutions is to impose penalties,” he added.

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Mike Egerton/PA Wire

In mitigation for Whittingham, who has a previous conviction for aggravated trespass, the court heard the substance was a “starch-based powder, chosen not to cause maximum damage but simply to have a visual effect as part of the protest”.

Representing herself in court, Reid said: “I’m a pretty boring middle-aged person that, like a lot of people, tries to do their best… It would have been much easier to stay at home and pretend my little community was going to be fine.”

She told the court: “Actually it’s the fossil fuel companies – they are doing reckless criminal damage.”

District Judge Curtis said the protest was meticulously planned “to obtain maximum publicity for the cause you believe in”.

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He told Whittingham the cost of the criminal damage “pales into insignificance compared to the commercial damage” caused by the demonstration.

Whittingham was sentenced to an 18-month community order with 25 rehabilitation activity days and 200 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay £899 compensation and £390 costs.

Reid was sentenced to a two-year community order with 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days, 100 hours of unpaid work and £390 costs.