On Wednesday 15th December, Ruth Jarman, a 58-year-old mother of three and a charity worker, was given a two month prison sentence suspended for two years after being convicted of contempt of court for breaking the government’s M25 injunction. She was also ordered to pay £5000 in court costs. Ruth is a Christian and an Anglican. She took action on the M25 as part of Insulate Britain. This is the moving statement she read out in court.
I admit that I broke the injunction – it was a choice I made because I answer to a higher authority, that of love and life. I felt that not joining the IB protests would make me a bystander to violence and complicit in the breakdown of abundant and civilised life.
I am sorry for the impact of our protests on the people who were affected. I hate disrupting people and my actions were aiming to prevent the greater disruption of climate breakdown. So I do not regret breaking the injunction and I cannot promise not to do it again.
We are in an emergency.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, someone who has to be one of the best-briefed people in the world, said this in September 2018: ‘We face a direct existential threat…If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change.’ This August he said that the recent IPCC report was ‘code red for humanity’.
And what was our government’s response to this warning? When the world was crying out for moral leadership at COP26? Instead of the no-brainer, cheapest carbon reduction strategy of insulating British homes, in line with its legal obligations under the Climate Act, it was handing out billions in subsidies to new roads, runways, coal mines and oil wells.
I am a Christian and a mother. My faith tells me to care for and respect what God has created, and it requires me to love my neighbour, where that neighbour is just as much an unborn child in Bangladesh as someone next door. I cannot get the parable of the Good Samaritan out of my head. To not raise the alarm on the climate crisis would, for me, be walking on by on the other side of the road. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I cannot stand by and watch the wholesale destruction of God’s one beautiful earth and my children’s future without trying to respond in a way that is commensurate with the severity of the crisis.
I also feel complicit being part of and benefiting from an economic system that is causing mass extinction. I don’t have particular contempt for the court, or the highways authority, but I do have contempt for the system in which we are all embedded. I feel we have that choice that Jesus talks about – between God and mammon, between good and evil. Evil is a big word – but if an economic system that threatens the viability of life on earth isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. As a Christian I must resist evil. Breaking the highways authority injunction was a visible and dramatic way to do that.
h given a two month sentence suspended for two years, on condition that they do not break the government’s motorway injunction in that time
Ruth was in court alongside eight other protestors, including Rev Dr Sue Parfitt, 79 and Dr Ben Buse, 36, both Anglicans. Ruth and Sue were given two month prison sentences suspended for two years. Ben is already serving a four-month sentence on an earlier charge of contempt of court and was ordered to serve a further 30 days consecutively. He is still eligible for early half time release so will likely serve two and a half months in total.