Olympic gold medalist spared jail over Extinction Rebellion protest as judge commends his commitment to cause

Telegraph Reporters
Etienne Stott, 40, outside City of London Magistrates' Court, after he was convicted of a public order offence and given a conditional discharge following Extinction Rebellion protests last year - PA

An Olympic gold medallist who helped disrupt the journeys of 500,000 commuters in an Extinction Rebellion protest was spared jail as a judge commended his commitment to the climate change cause. 

Canoeist Etienne Stott, 40, was awarded an MBE after winning the slalom event with crewmate Tim Baillie at the 2012 London Olympics.

He denied breaching a section 14 public order notice after blocking Waterloo Bridge during the demonstration with other climate activists on April 15 last year.

Stott appeared at City of London Magistrates' Court on Tuesday to defend himself.

Body worn footage played to the court showed protesters chanting “turn this system round” while a police officer arrests Stott for refusing to move.

Screengrab from a video of Olympic gold medalist Etienne Stott being arrested by police at the Extinction Rebellion demonstration on Waterloo Bridge in London Credit: PA 

When the officer tells Stott he is going to arrest him the canoeist responded: “I'm going to lie down.”

The rower told the court he had acted out of a “genuine sense of fear” and the same sense of duty to protect humanity as the officers who arrested him.

Addressing the court, he said: “In my evidence today, I will hopefully prove to you I was acting according to conscience and motivated by a genuine sense of fear and a sense of duty.

“David Attenborough says we are facing the collapse of civilisation and for me that is just a terrifyingly real prospect.

“I'm motivated in a similar way to those police officers who arrested me by a sense of duty to look after society.'

Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott win Gold at the 2012 London Olympics Credit: Action Images 

District Judge Michael Snow, sentencing, praised Stott for his "very impressive" achievements but said he had to find him guilty due to the lack of necessity of the protest.

"He believes he can see on the horizon the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding towards us because of a failure to address environmental breakdown and climate change.

"I have absolutely no hesitation in recognising that he is a man of commitment to his cause and it's a cause he's anxious to highlight."

But the judge added: "Fifty five bus routes have been delayed, cancelled or terminated early and it's estimated that 500,000 passengers were affected on 15 April.

"There was a serious impact on business and an ability to operate normally.

"I recognise that some of those concerns don't relate immediately to Waterloo Bridge but that impact would be a cumulative effect because the effect ripples out through London."

The judge said that Stott would not be jailed due to his previous good character and passionate belief in climate change.

Stott, of Bathley Street, Nottingham, denied but was convicted of breaching a Section 14 Notice of the Public Order Act 1986.

He received a conditional discharge for nine months and ordered to pay £300 in costs.