XR priests who stopped Shadwell train acted out of 'obedience to God'

Extinction Rebellion activists Father Martin Newell and Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, outside Inner London Crown Court

Extinction Rebellion activists Father Martin Newell and Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, outside Inner London Crown Court - Credit: PA

Two priests who stopped a rush hour train at Shadwell as part of a climate protest were motivated by their faith, a court has heard.

Father Martin Newell, 54, and Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, together with Christian environmentalist Philip Kingston, 85, halted a DLR train at Shadwell station as part of an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest during rush hour on October 17 2019.

Newell and Parfitt, of Birmingham and Bristol respectively, used a ladder to climb on the train roof while Kingston, of Patchway in Gloucestershire, superglued himself to the side of the carriage.

Some frustrated passengers reportedly told them: “This is a f***ing electric train, you should be supporting this.”

Giving evidence at Inner London Crown Court yesterday - Wednesday, January 12 - Newell told the jury: “There’s a climate emergency which is an existential threat to the human race, and this was the best way I could think of at that time to draw attention to it and get the government to take the urgent action that’s needed.”

The Catholic priest added that his Christian faith was his “deepest motivation”.

Parfitt, an Anglican priest, told jurors she was acting out of obedience to God.

She said: “I did it because I feel truly called by God to do all that I can to avert the catastrophe that’s on its way to his whole creation.

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“I feel truly called to do this in whatever way I can and at whatever cost to myself.

“In this particular case I believe that there is a compelling case for there to be actions of civil disobedience to try to wake up government and society to the extreme emergency we are in."

Newell and Parfitt, who have pleaded not guilty, said prayers while they were on the roof for about 45 minutes.

The train, which was travelling from Lewisham to Bank shortly before 7am, was about 70 per cent full of passengers.

The protest caused 77 minutes of disruption with 15 DLR trains delayed or cancelled.

The court heard that many passengers reacted angrily to the protest.

The trial continues.