Protester jailed for 10 months for cracking windows at JPMorgan’s London office

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A woman has been jailed for 10 months for cracking windows at JPMorgan’s office in London in protest over the bank’s role in providing financing to the fossil fuel industry.

Amy Pritchard, 39, became the first person to be jailed for a campaign where climate protesters targeted banks across London after she was given a 12-month sentence, reduced to 10 months due to overcrowding, at the Inner London Crown Court on Wednesday.

Pritchard and four other women from protest group Extinction Rebellion were found guilty of criminal damage after a protest in September 2021 in which they applied stickers at the JPMorgan premises on Victoria Embankment that read “in case of climate emergency, break glass”, and then cracked three windows.

The bank told the court the damage was worth £306,000.

During the sentencing hearing, Pritchard and her co-defendants explained they had not meant to cause such costly damage, and took their actions in the early morning to avoid the risk of injuring anyone at the bank.

The four other women were given suspended sentences and told to carry out unpaid work in their communities. All five have lodged appeals.

Speaking in court to give her mitigating statement, a tearful Pritchard said climate change would erode “the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, law and order, health and quality of life worldwide”, adding that JPMorgan “more than any other bank are fuelling this crime against humanity”.

JPMorgan is the largest financier of fossil fuels globally, according to the annual Banking on Chaos report produced by coalition of non-profit groups.

While Judge Silas Reid acknowledged that Pritchard’s views were genuinely held, he argued they were not a mitigating factor for her actions.

The jailing of Pritchard, from Liverpool, comes as lawyers and activists warn of both a legislative and a judicial clampdown against climate activism in the UK, including restrictions on protest.

Pritchard was also jailed last year by the same judge after being found in contempt of court after breaching rulings he made that she was not to mention the climate crisis in front of the jury, in a separate case for taking part in a roadblock in the City of London in October 2021.

In January Michel Forst, the UN’s special rapporteur on environmental defenders, raised concerns that judges in the UK had “forbidden environmental defenders from explaining to the jury their motivation for participating in a given protest or from mentioning climate change at all”.

The women convicted for breaking windows at JPMorgan’s Embankment office also include Stephanie Aylett, 29, a former medical device representative from St Albans; Pamela Bellinger, 67, a vegetable grower from Leicester; Adelheid Russenberger, 33, a PhD student from Richmond, London; and Rosemary (Annie) Webster, 66, a retired cook and beekeeper from Dorchester, Dorset.

The protest was one of several organised by Extinction Rebellion against finance companies it accused of bankrolling the fossil fuel industry.

Last year, a group of women who broke windows at Barclays’ building in Canary Wharf as part of the same campaign were given suspended prison sentences, while nine women who took similar action at HSBC were acquitted.

A jury is currently deliberating in a separate trial of six medical professionals who are accused of causing damage to windows worth £200,000 at JPMorgan’s building in Canary Wharf in July 2022 as part of a climate protest, the same week as the UK experienced its hottest day on record. 

Earlier this week, up to 20 Barclays bank branches were targeted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators who smashed windows and sprayed red paint on the buildings.

JPMorgan declined to comment.

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