Climate activists guilty of vandalising Ipswich council building

Susan Hagley and Tina Smith outside Suffolk Magistrates' Court

Susan Hagley (left) and Tina Smith outside Suffolk Magistrates' Court - Credit: Archant

A pair of environmental activists have been convicted of criminal damage after spraying graffiti on the headquarters of Ipswich Borough Council.

Susan Hagley and Tina Smith were found guilty of criminal damage following a trial at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Monday.

Both had denied vandalising Ipswich Borough Council's Grafton House headquarters, in Russell Road, on the morning of February 15 this year.

Graffiti team staff from Ipswich Borough Council removing the message

Graffiti being removed from Ipswich Borough Council's Grafton House headquarters - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Each argued they were acting lawfully, in the interests of protecting property or life, and in accordance with their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, under Article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Hagley and Smith were acting on behalf of the newly formed political party Burning Pink, which aims to replace the government with citizens' assemblies in order to tackle the climate crisis. 

The words "tough love" and "12 demands ultimatum" were sprayed on the front door and windows in bright pink paint, the court heard.

A graffiti van

The borough council's graffiti team at the scene - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Council facilities management officer Adam Howes said the paint was removed by two operatives with high-powered pressure washers over the course of about three hours and at a cost of £273.57.

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Burning Pink had threatened a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience unless local council's pledged to meet 12 demands, including to divest all employee pension funds into non-fossil funds. 

Another 14 buildings were targeted across the country as part of the strategy.

Hagley, 65, of Tuddenham Road, Ipswich, said the council had failed to respond to the demands. 

Smith, 41, of The Street, Alderton, near Woodbridge, who stood on behalf of Burning Pink at May's local election, told magistrates she had selected the most environmentally friendly, easily removable chalk paint available for the act.

Presiding magistrate Michael Sweeting said both women had been reckless as to whether damage was caused.

He said that exercising Article 10 or 11 of the ECHR had not amounted to a reasonable excuse for their actions, which the bench ruled were neither reasonable nor proportionate, and not objectively capable of protecting life or property.

Both women were handed a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £164.14 in compensation.

Reacting to the decision outside court, Smith said: "We took this action with our eyes wide open and we knew that this could be the outcome.

"It was a farcical process when we're in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency". 

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