Just Stop Oil Essex tunnellers found guilty at Basildon Crown Court

Today in Basildon Crown Court, Just Stop Oil tunnellers Samuel Johnson, Larch Maxey, Joe Howlett, and Autumn Wharrie have been found guilty. The four are expecting to be sentenced in June. They took action in August 2022, demanding the UK government immediately halts all licensing and consents for new fossil fuel exploration and extraction. [1]

The group took action by occupying tunnels dug under the road leading to the Navigator Oil Terminal in Thurrock, Essex. This occurred simultaneously with three other tunneling actions in Essex and Warwickshire, as well as occupations of oil trucks and terminals overground. These combined efforts massively impacted the flow and operation of oil in the UK at the time. [2]

A sixth person, Xavier Trimmer-Gonzalez, took action with this group, but died in 2023 after spending time in prison following his actions with Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil. A two minute silence was observed during the trial to show respect to his memory. [3]

Sam Johnson, 42, said today:

“I’m Sam, a construction worker from Essex and I took action simply because we have run out of time. We have known for longer than I’ve been alive what would happen if we kept burning fossil fuels – and now we are seeing this catastrophe unfold in real time. I have a nephew who is seven years old who I love to bits. As long as I have breath in my lungs I will fight to protect his future.”

The group remained in the 52-foot tunnel for 13 days. At the time, Chief Constable of Essex Police, BJ Harrington, recognised in a statement that the climate crisis is a “serious concern”, however, Essex police put the lives of the action takers and motorists at risk by opening the roads over the tunnel. [4] [5]

At the time, action taker Joe Howlett, 33, said:

“The climate crisis is caused by a very small minority of people and it’s those same people who are currently profiteering from the cost of living crisis. That’s why I’ve spent the last 10 days living in a tunnel under a road leading to the Navigator oil terminal in Essex.”


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Notes to Editors

[1] Just Stop Oil is a coalition of groups working together to demand that the government immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK. Just Stop Oil is a member of the A22 Network of civil resistance projects.

Just Stop Oil ‘Blue Lights’ policy: our policy is, and has always been, to move out of the way for emergency vehicles with siren sounding and ‘blue lights’ on.

[2] https://juststopoil.org/2022/08/23/just-stop-oil-supporters-block-critical-oil-terminals-in-essex-and-warwickshire-with-roadblocks-and-tunnels/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/feb/21/insulate-britain-activist-xavier-gonzalez-trimmer-found-dead

[4] https://juststopoil.org/2022/09/04/breaking-just-stop-oil-tunnellers-end-their-13-day-occupation-as-police-chief-acknowledges-climate-change-a-serious-concern/

[5] https://juststopoil.org/2022/08/24/police-endangering-public-safety-by-refusing-to-close-road-over-occupied-just-stop-oil-tunnel/

Just Stop Oil blocks critical oil facilities for the third day in a row demanding an end to new oil and gas