Ex-Paralympian James Brown and James Ruggles claimed rail project a danger to London’s drinking water
Two environmental activists have been convicted of charges relating to a protest against HS2 after occupying a 100ft-high drilling rig to highlight damage they claimed the rail project was causing to London’s drinking water supply.
James Brown, 57, a partially sighted former Paralympics cycling champion, and James Ruggles, 25, appeared at Uxbridge magistrates court charged with criminal damage and aggravated trespass after a protest in February 2020 when they climbed on to drilling machinery in the Colne Valley, Hillingdon.
Both spent several hours on the rig and unfurled a banner that said: “Protect London’s drinking water: stop HS2.”
They and other environmental campaigners claimed the pile-driving into a chalk aquifer in the Colne Valley posed a risk to 20% of the city’s drinking water supply.
Brown was cleared of the criminal damage charge but found guilty of the aggravated trespass charge. Ruggles was found guilty of both charges. The men were given conditional discharges.
The activists told the court they carried out the protest on the drilling rig to raise awareness about the environmental damage they believed HS2’s work was causing.
“Because I have a bit of a public profile I believed that by being present on the day I might be able to attract public attention through the media,” Brown told the court.
District judge Andrew Johnson
said in his ruling that while he did not doubt the sincerity of the defendants, if this sort of conduct was not punished “it would lead to anarchy,” he claimed, adding: “There has to be a line drawn.”
Speaking after the ruling, Brown said: “This is one of an increasing number of climate and environment-related cases. I think in the months to come we will be seeing many more. Awareness of these issues amongst members of the public is massively on the rise. Our government is simply not tackling the climate crisis with the energy it requires.”
An HS2 spokesperson said: “HS2 take our responsibilities incredibly seriously and we have a world-leading team of engineers, hydrogeologists, and environmental scientists in place to ensure that the construction of the Colne Valley viaduct affords the right protection for the environment, and is completed as safely and efficiently as possible. As a result, we have almost completed half the piling for the viaduct, with no impact on public water supply.”