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Greenpeace fined £80,000 over 12-day BP oil rig protest

PUBLISHED: 14:10 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:32 07 July 2020

Greenpeace boat alongside the BP-chartered Transocean 'The Paul B Loyd Jr' rig en route to the Vorlich field in the North Sea. The Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise had been following the BP rig as it headed to the North Sea drilling site. The rig undertook a U-turn when it arrived at the site and can be seen heading back towards Scotland.
 Picture: Jiri Rezac

Greenpeace boat alongside the BP-chartered Transocean 'The Paul B Loyd Jr' rig en route to the Vorlich field in the North Sea. The Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise had been following the BP rig as it headed to the North Sea drilling site. The rig undertook a U-turn when it arrived at the site and can be seen heading back towards Scotland. Picture: Jiri Rezac

© Greenpeace

Greenpeace’s boss has avoided a jail sentence, but the eco campaign group has been whacked with an £80,000 fine for trying to stop BP drilling for new oil at a field the government unlawfully granted a permit for.

John Sauven, the executive director of GreenpeaceJohn Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace

Greenpeace UK was found guilty of contempt of court by Judge Lady Wolffe in Edinburgh’s Court of Session this morning, for breaching drilling contractor Transocean’s interdict, which sought to put a stop to the protest in the North Sea last June.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise blocked a rig owned by Transocean - which BP was paying £140,000 a day to use - as it was en route to the Vorlich oil field to drill for new wells, forcing it to do a u-turn and head back to shore.

Transocean brought the legal action and sought to hit the non-governmental organisation with unlimited fines because it continued with the protest - which eventually lasted for 12 days, and saw activists board the rig to unfold a banner stating: “Climate Emergency Greenpeace”.

Lawyers for Greenpeace UK argued it was necessary to disrupt the rig to prevent the multi-national oil and gas giant from making the climate emergency worse by extracting 30 million barrels of oil, and Greenpeace’s executive director John Sauven admitted breaching the interdict, but denied contempt of court.

John Sauven, Executive Director Greenpeace UK, and supporters are outside Edingburgh's Court of Session on the first day of the trial. BP's rig operator, Transocean has asked the Scottish courts to jail Greenpeace's boss and punish the campaigning group with huge fines after aActivists blocked a BP rig from drilling new oil wells in the North Sea for 12 days in June. Picture: Robert OmerodJohn Sauven, Executive Director Greenpeace UK, and supporters are outside Edingburgh's Court of Session on the first day of the trial. BP's rig operator, Transocean has asked the Scottish courts to jail Greenpeace's boss and punish the campaigning group with huge fines after aActivists blocked a BP rig from drilling new oil wells in the North Sea for 12 days in June. Picture: Robert Omerod

In a hearing held via weblink, Judge Lady Wolffe said the protestors’ actions had been “facilitated by Greenpeace” whose “most senior personnel had been involved in all stages”.

“There is no doubt Mr Sauven... retained overall control and could have ended the action at any point,” she said.

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“A custodial sentence would, in my view, be within the range of proportionate sanctions,” she added, however decided to “extend her leniency” and fine Greenpeace UK £80,000.

Greenpeace campaigner Sarah North holds a banner reading Greenpeace campaigner Sarah North holds a banner reading "Climate Emergency" whilst floating in front of BP oil rig on day 11 of the protest in the North Sea. Greenpeace is calling on BP to halt drilling for new oil in light of the climate emergency and refocus their business on renewable energy. Picture: Jiri Rezac/ Greenpeace

READ MORE: Greenpeace’s Sarah North: ‘How I stopped BP drilling for new oil - by jumping in the sea’

READ MORE: Greenpeace boss John Sauven at risk of two-year jail term after stopping BP drilling for new oil

Following the verdict Mr Sauven vowed the group, headquartered in Canonbury Villas, Islington, will plough on with its legal challenge against BP to try to prevent the multi-national giant drilling for any new North Sea oil.

In April the government admitted it acted unlawfully by granting BP the Vorlich oil field permit, because officials had rubber-stamped its 2018 application, robbing the public of the chance to contest it.

Greenpeace is now seeking a judicial review to quash the permit.

Mr Sauven said: “We are disappointed that BP’s rig operator Transocean has sought to punish us for trying to protect the planet. But our campaign does not end here and we will continue our fight to stop the oil industry from wrecking our climate.

“We stand by our reasons for taking action to stop BP’s reckless drilling, which is driving us deeper into the climate emergency.”
Transocean and BP have been approached for comment.


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