Insulate Britain eco zealot says jail has 'emboldened' him to protestJanuary 7, 2022
Jailed Insulate Britain eco zealot who was freed after just a month-and-a-half says prison has ’emboldened’ him to carry on roadblocking protests – and he would be willing to spend rest of his life behind bars for the cause
- Louis McKechnie, 21, was handed three-month jail term on November 17 last year
- Engineering student was released halfway through sentence on New Year’s Eve
- He says experience ’emboldened him to take further action regardless of prison’
- The protester also claimed to have received a hero’s welcome in HMP Thameside
An Insulate Britain eco zealot who was freed from jail after just a month and a half has said prison emboldened him to carry on roadblocking protests.
Louis McKechnie, 21, was handed a three-month sentence on November 17 last year for breaching an injunction designed to prevent the group’s M25 blockades.
The engineering student, who was locked up alongside nine other activists, was released on probation halfway through his jail term on New Year’s Eve.
He now says his experience at HMP Thameside has encouraged him to ‘take any future action regardless of if prison is a consequence.’
McKechnie added: ‘If we’re able to save these 8,000 to 30,000 every year that are lost to fuel poverty then I would spend the rest of my life in prison for that.’
The protester, who had been given a month off his sentence due to his youth, claims to have received a hero’s welcome in jail, saying prisoners told him they ‘supported what we were doing and they’d make sure our time in prison was okay’.
But the former chief constable of Cumbria Police, Dr Stuart Hyde, said McKechnie’s comments provide a ‘rather rose-tinted view’.
He warned the protester that he should ‘look forward to another sentence if he’s going to carry on this activity.’
Louis McKechnie (pictured far right), 21, was handed a three-month sentence on November 17 last year for breaching an injunction designed to prevent the group’s M25 blockades
The group’s demonstrations had seen them glue themselves to the road before being removed by police. Pictured: the protesters blocking an M25 junction on September 13 last year
Speaking on his time in jail, McKechnie told LBC: ‘I had no problems. I was so surprised – before going to prison I was terrified, but at this point I would be willing to risk prison if the stakes were high enough.
‘My experience of prison has emboldened me to take any future action regardless of if prison is a consequence.’
He added: ‘The first prisoners on the wing we saw said to us they’d heard what we were in for, they supported what we were doing and they’d make sure our time in prison was okay.
‘It really put me at ease because I was quite nervous about the reaction from the other prisoners until that point.’
On whether all the activists remained together in prison, he said: ‘At the start, but they split us up quickly. I’m not really sure why.
‘We were split up a lot faster than prisoners usually are. I don’t know if there was pressure on the prison to do so.’
Reacting to the protester’s comments, ex-chief constable Dr Hyde said: ‘The consequences of having a conviction will impact on their later lives.
‘But the other aspect of this that I would also point out to people like Louis is you’ve made it a lot easier for people, particularly the police, to identify you in the future.
‘They will have your photograph, your fingerprints, your DNA, and with the amount of publicity that you’re getting it really does make the police’s job much, much easier to be able to convict people like Louis in the future.
‘So he should look forward to another sentence if he’s going to carry on this activity.’
McKechnie (pictured above) says his experience at HMP Thameside has encouraged him to ‘take any future action regardless of if prison is a consequence’
He told LBC host Rachael Venables (above): ‘If we’re able to save these 8,000 to 30,000 every year that are lost to fuel poverty then I would spend the rest of my life in prison for that’
How Insulate Britain made a mockery of the law over two months
September 13 – 78 Insulate Britain protesters arrested after blocking junctions 3, 6, 14, 20 and 31 of the M25
September 15 – More than 50 protesters arrested after targeting junctions 1, 8, 9 and 23 of the M25
September 17 – 48 protesters arrested after targeting junctions 3, 9 and 28 of the M25, as well as the M3
September 20 – 29 protesters are arrested after blocking the M25 at junctions 4 and 18, as well as the A1
September 21 – Protesters risk death by running into moving traffic to block the carriageway near Junction 10. Some 38 arrests are made. National Highways obtains an injunction against further protests on the M25
September 22 – Protesters burn copies of the injunction outside the Home Office, blocking the road outside the ministry. No arrests are made
September 24 – 39 protesters arrested after blocking roads at three locations in Dover. They are all released under investigation. National Highways obtains a second injunction covering Dover.
September 27 – 53 protesters are arrested for blocking a slip road at Junction 14 of the M25. They are all released under investigation.
September 28 – National Highways says it is taking ‘legal advice’ over how to enforce its injunction
September 29 – 27 protesters are arrested for blocking a roundabout at Junction 3 of the M25 on two occasions
September 30 – Protesters return to junction 30 at Thurrock in Essex, and nine are arrested
October 1: The group block the M4 at junction 3, the M1 at junction 1 and M25 at junction 25. Some 39 arrests
October 2: Third injunction bans them from obstructing traffic and access to motorways and major A roads in and around London
October 4: 38 arrests after protesters block three major roads in London – the Blackwall Tunnel, Wandsworth Bridge and A40 and North Circular at Hanger Lane.
October 8: 19 arrested over protest at Old Street roundabout and a further 16 on the M25 at junction 24. Transport for London gets a High Court injunction to ban them from obstructing traffic in 14 locations in London.
October 13: Protesters return to the M25 at junction 31 and a nearby industrial estate, with 35 people arrested.
October 25: Activists target areas around Southwark Bridge, Canary Wharf and Liverpool Street station. Some 53 are arrested.
October 27: Protesters blockade the A40 in North Acton, West London, and a major roundabout next to the Dartford Crossing in Kent. Kent Police arrested 32 protesters, while the Metropolitan Police detained 17.
October 29: 10 activists are arrested after walking onto the M25 between junctions 28 and 29 in Essex
November 2: Police arrest 20 activists before they can even get onto the M25 at junction 23 for South Mimms, but other actions take place on the M56 in Manchester, with 11 arrests, and the A4400 in Birmingham
November 4: Some 62 protesters sit down at Parliament Square in Westminster
November 17: Nine of the protesters are jailed at the High Court for between three and six months
McKechnie and fellow activist Ana Heyatawin were both jailed for three months, while Ben Buse, Roman Paluch-Machnik, Oliver Rock, Emma Smart, Tim Speers and James Thomas received four-month sentences.
Ben Taylor was given a longer sentence of six months after boasting he would immediately block the motorway again if not jailed.
Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Chamberlain ordered each of the activists to pay £5,000 towards National Highways’ legal costs, making a total of £45,000.
McKechnie previously said his only income was his student loan, which all went on living expenses, so he would struggle to pay his share of the bill in paying the government’s legal costs.
The group and its supporters chanted ‘we are unstoppable, another world is possible’ as they were led to the cells through the dock by security officers.
Insulate Britain embarked on a two-month campaign which saw them glue themselves to the road throughout the end of 2021 before protestors were finally arrested and charged.
The campaigners’ demonstrations had seen them glue themselves to the road before being removed by police.
McKechnie’s latest comments follow Priti Patel using her New Year message to promise a fresh crackdown on the eco-mob.
In a video message shared across social media, the Home Secretary praised the Goverment’s achievements across 2021, such as its hiring of new police officers and publishing an anti-violence strategy to help women and girls.
But she insisted there was still ‘much more to do’ in 2022, pointing to tougher measures for eco-protesters who wreaked havoc on Britain’s roads last year and ’caused misery to the law-abiding public’.
Looking ahead to the new year, Ms Patel said it was ‘vital’ the Government’s Police and Crime Bill passed through Parliament.
She said: ‘The Bill will introduce mandatory life sentences for those who kill an emergency worker in the course of their duty and also crack down on the so-called eco-protesters on our roads and motorways that have caused misery to the law-abiding public.’
After the sentencing in November, a statement from the nine activists jailed was read by an Insulate Britain supporter outside the Royal Courts of Justice.
It read: ‘Over the last nine weeks, 174 ordinary people have held the Government to account, asking that they deliver on their most basic of duties, to protect the British people, the economy and all we hold dear in our society.
‘Your Government has now chosen to act. It has chosen to imprison us for this demand.
‘By imprisoning us, the Government shows its cowardice. They would rather lock up pensioners than insulate their homes.
‘They would rather lock up teachers than create thousands of proper jobs.
‘They would rather lock up young people than take practical steps to reduce emissions.
‘They will lock us up and leave thousands to die of cold this winter.
‘We knew we would face prison when we took this action, but we could not stand by while the Government betrays the general public.’
Duncan Smith, executive director of operations at National Highways, said at the time: ‘Safety is our top priority and we welcome this outcome.
‘We respect people’s right to protest but do not condone the actions of anyone who puts their lives, and the lives of road users, at risk.
‘The judge’s decision will hopefully make people think again about carrying out reckless and dangerous protests such as these and endangering people’s lives.
‘The injunctions remain in place and we stand ready to do what is necessary to limit the impact of any protests on the strategic road network, and to keep drivers safe and on the move.’
Insulate Britain activist Tracey Mallaghan speaking to reporters outside the High Court last November following the group’s sentencing
Who are the Insulate Britain nine and how long were they jailed for?
Ben Taylor: 6 months
Taylor was handed the longest sentence for what judges called an ‘inflammatory’ call to arms, in which he said the government must ‘f****ing act’ on the group’s demands. He also boasted that he would immediately go out and block another road if not jailed. The court therefore extended his detention ‘to deter Mr Taylor from committing further breaches’.
Dr Benjamin Buse: 4 months
The University of Bristol researcher, 36, was the only defendant to have a barrister representing his interests. The court was told that Dr Buse, who has published on topics like ‘microanalysis of Uranium’, was a devout Christian and popular member of his local church in Cheddar. Barrister Owen Greenhall said he volunteered for charity and donated hundreds of pounds to good causes every month.
Oliver Roc: 4 months
The 41-year-old carpenter from south London, admitted he was ‘c**pping himself’ about going to jail and enjoyed drawn-out cinches with his partner before the final hearing began. He said that after feeling ‘depressed’ that the 2003 Iraq War march had failed, he was inspired to take up more extreme tactics, in collaboration with Extinction Rebellion, which he joined in 2019. He told the court he only earned about £10,000 a year, often making ‘small stage sets’.
Emma Smart: 4 months
The 44-year-old, from Weymouth, announced via an Insulate Britain spokesman that she would be going on hunger strike. She told the court that the proceedings were ‘obscene’ and glowered at barristers representing National Highways. But Smart, a biologist, has previously been criticised for undertaking a gas-guzzling 81,000-mile drive across the globe with her partner, Andy.
Louis McKechnie: 3 months
The student from Weymouth, 21, was given a month off his sentence in recognition of his youth.
He said his only income was his student loan, which all went on living expenses, so he would struggle to pay his share of the bill in paying the government’s legal costs.
He was released on probation halfway through his sentence on New Year’s Eve.
Ana Heyatawin: 3 months
The oldest of the defendants, the blue-haired 58-year-old from Wells, had her sentence reduced to three months, after she told the court about her litany of health issues, including a personality disorder, depression, sciatica and bad eyesight.
Heyatawin also told the High Court she is ‘traumatised’ by the Government’s attitude to climate change.
James Thomas: 4 months
The 47-year-old architect said he had previously regarded himself as an ‘enlightened capitalist sort of guy’, but was inspired to abandon his career and join protest movements after seeing a film about the successes won by the Suffragettes and their campaign of direct action. He said that the ‘scariest part’ of his time inside would be the impact on his relationship.
Roman Paluch-Machnik: 4 months
The 28-year-old from Ealing said that learning about the experiences of his grandparents, all four of whom escaped Poland during the war, had helped inspire his activism. An active member of Extinction Rebellion since 2018, he has travelled the country giving talks on climate change and training others how to participate in ‘Non-Violent Direct Action’.
Tim Speers: 4 months
The 36-year-old, from east London, pontificated in court, ‘in an insane world, the sane will be seen as insane’. He believes that Insulate Britain has led ‘one of the most successful campaigns in history’. He was first arrested on Waterloo Bridge in 2019 at an Extinction Rebellion protest, commenting: ‘I refuse sit back while greed and ignorance takes life to extinction.’
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