Climate protesters guilty of smashing up Barclays' London HQ

Almost £100,000 worth of damage was caused to the building in the attack by seven women determined to highlight the plight of the planet

An activist from the Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement, damages a window during a direct action at Barclays offices in Canary Wharf, London, Britain, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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Seven women who smashed windows at the London headquarters of Barclays bank as part of a climate protest have been told they potentially face jail after being found guilty of causing criminal damage.

The group caused almost £100,000 ($122,120) in damage when they used chisels and hammers to break the glass. One even became a shareholder so she could push the case against funding fossil fuels.

Carol Wood, 53, Nicola Stickells, 52, Sophie Cowen, 31, Lucy Porter, 48, Gabriella Ditton, 28, Rosemary Webster, 64, and Zoe Cohen, 52, were convicted at Southwark Crown Court, South London, on Monday over the incident on April 7 last year.

Apart from Cowen, the six others all have previous convictions for either criminal damage, wilful obstruction of a highway, breaching directions imposed on public assemblies or a combination of the three offences.

The seven women were found guilty by a jury on a majority of 11 to one after more than nine hours of deliberations.

Wood, the first to be found guilty, cried throughout the verdicts. In her evidence, Ditton said Barclays was “financing the destruction of everything that we know and love” and it was “necessary” to break the bank’s windows to “sound an alarm”.

Prosecutor Diana Wilson said the women could receive sentences ranging from community orders to 18 months in prison.

Judge Milne KC said “all options” had to be considered before adjourning the sentencing to January 27 next year at the same court.

More than 20 supporters in the public gallery gave the defendants a standing ovation after the hearing ended.

In April last year, the group spread out along the front of Barclays bank in Canary Wharf, East London, before using chisels and hammers to break the large glass panels that make up the exterior.

Their actions were associated with climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion.

During the trial, they argued that Barclays staff would have consented to the damage if they were fully informed about the climate crisis.

The prosecutor insisted this was not true during her closing speech. She added they were “doing it to impose their views and to force change” and because they “believe themselves to be above the law”.

Webster, a trained cook, said Barclays was the global banking industry’s seventh largest funder of fossil fuels, and the largest in Europe.

She alleged the bank was “putting profits before people and the planet” and said she “cracked” the glass windows to “raise the alarm”.

Both she and Cowen, the founder of a social enterprise company that helps people move their money to “clean banks”, told the court their actions had emulated the suffragettes, who “cracked many, many windows”.

Porter, a former teacher, told jurors the bank’s windows were replaced but “ecosystems” are irreplaceable and that disrupting bankers over the course of a morning is incomparable with watching a child die of starvation.

The court heard Cohen became a Barclays shareholder in early 2021 to put forward a resolution asking the bank to phase out funding for fossil fuels which was later voted against.

Cohen said she “honestly” believed that by April 2021 she had run out of other options to try to achieve change, and the repair costs — £97,022 — were insignificant to Barclays, which had spent £100 million on refurbishments last year.

Both Stickells and Wood told the court they were “shocked” at how much the repairs cost.

Wood, of Swansea; Stickells, of Harleston; Cowen, of Shaftesbury; Porter, of Euston, central London; Ditton, of Norwich; Webster, of Dorchester; and Cohen, of Lymm, all denied but were convicted of criminal damage.

Updated: December 05, 2022, 4:07 PM