Greenpeace UK has been fined £80,000 after being found guilty of contempt of court for breaching a ban on an oil rig protest.
Judge Lady Wolffe said she considered handing the environmental organisation’s executive director John Sauven a suspended jail sentence but had decided to exercise “leniency”.
The BP rig was bound for the Vorlich oil field in the North Sea when it was occupied by activists in the Cromarty Firth, north of Inverness, on June 9 last year.
Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise shadowed the rig and prevented it from reaching the oil field for 12 days.
Rig operators Transocean secured an interim interdict – or temporary ban – with BP’s permission on anyone connected with Greenpeace either boarding the rig or coming within 500m of it.
A total of 14 arrests were made at the time.
In a virtual hearing on Friday at Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session, Lady Wolffe said Greenpeace admitted breaching the order on two occasions.
Once as two activists joined others on board the rig on June 14, unfurling a ‘Climate emergency Greenpeace’ banner, and again by sending boats from the Arctic Sunrise after the rig two days later but being “unable to put any protesters on the rig”.
She dismissed the organisation’s argument the breaches did not constitute contempt of court as the protesters were acting of their own choice, saying Greenpeace was “deflecting responsibility” from itself.
The judge said: “Without Greenpeace’s active support and resources, none of those who attempted to board the rig would have been able to do so.
“There is no doubt that John Sauven was acting in his capacity as executive director of Greenpeace. He retained overall control and could have ended the action at any point.
“Most critically, he could have ended the action at the point where it breached the order.
“Greenpeace have exhibited wilful defiance of the order and they are guilty of contempt of court.”
Lady Wolffe said those found guilty of contempt can be jailed for up to two years and a suspended sentence for Mr Sauven was “in range” when considering how tough a sanction to impose.
“It is fundamental to the rule of law that court orders are obeyed,” she said.
“However I intend to exercise leniency and contain this court’s sanction to a fine of Greenpeace.”
Following the hearing, Mr Sauven said: “We are disappointed that BP’s rig operator Transocean has sought to punish us for trying to protect the planet.
“But our campaign does not end here and we will continue to fight to stop the oil industry from wrecking our climate.”