'Whatever it takes': Freed eco activist vows to carry on protests after leaving jail

14 January 2022, 10:04 | Updated: 14 January 2022, 14:26

An eco-activist has vowed that her jail time has only increased her determination
An eco-activist has vowed that her jail time has only increased her determination. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

A freed Insulate Britain activist has insisted her time behind bars only "increased my resolve" and she will do whatever it takes to achieve her aims.

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Emma Smart told LBC's Nick Ferrari that the group, which has had protesters glue themselves to major roads including the M25 and cause widespread disruption to motorists, will carry on with its activism.

That's despite its members getting thrown into jail after they defied court orders effectively banning their demonstrations on roads.

Ms Smart spent 26 days on hunger strike at the start of her sentence - of which she served half of a four month jail term.

"If anything my time in jail has increased my resolve and increased my determination," she told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, vowing she would do "whatever it takes" to achieve the aim of insulating all of the UK's houses by 2030.

"I'm aware during my time in prison Boris Johnson hasn't made a meaningful statement on insulating Britain and so our demands still stand."

Read more: Exclusive: Eco protester reveals he got hero's welcome in jail and would do it all again

Read more: Insulate Britain: Police ask anyone who missed GP appointment or work to come forward

Insulate Britain has demanded the Government make a "meaningful statement" on insulating homes by 2030, and describes it as both an environmental and fuel poverty issue.

Ms Smart said she used her time in jail to reflect, and to meet people to find out what affects their lives, describing it as stepping out of her "echo chamber".

Prisoners were "supportive"of Insulate Britain, she told Nick, claiming some were "horrified" at their sentencing.

Speaking outside HMP Bronzefield, in Ashford, Surrey, Ms Smart went on: "I would not like to say never… I am very determined to continue protesting, we know what we did on the M25 was incredibly effective."

Although being in prison means she has been out of touch with Insulate Britain's plans, she said: "I will absolutely be with them, whatever it takes, and being in prison has not put me off acting, being arrested has not put me off acting, my terror lies purely with the inaction of this Government."

An open letter released by Insulate Britain said: "As we leave prison today we want to say to the Police, you are failing to protect both the British people and their property yet are protecting a government that is actively destroying national security.

"The climate crisis will destroy the economy and bankrupt pension funds (including those of Police officers). House prices will collapse, NHS beds will be covered in the previous patient's blood when there are no nurses to clean them up."

LBC's Rachael Venables writes:

All but one of Insulate Britain's jailed protesters have now been freed from prison.

They spent their Christmases behind bars, and Emma Smart went even further with 26 days on hunger strike.

Today, she and her colleagues can go home to re-join their families, but the saga is not over.

A third group are booked at the High Court on the 1st February, once again accused of breaching injunctions.

Through the winter, as those legal battles dragged on, drivers around the M25 have been able to breathe a little easier, with no more gluing protesters to deal with.

But this break has only ever been a pause. Don't imagine that a group dedicated enough to go to jail will stop once the prison gates bang shut behind them this morning.

I can't imagine this has been a rehabilitative sentence. Indeed, last week, student Louis McKechnie told me he'd happily now spend the rest of his life in jail, if it met their aims.

Insulate Britain are driven by the fact their campaign so far has gained them huge publicity, and international recognition.

Meanwhile, the current gas shortage and oncoming ‘cost of living crisis’ has made the issue of fuel poverty and insulation even more mainstream.

But, despite all that, the only change in legislation they’ve achieved are Priti Patel's suggested amendments to the Police and Crime Bill, strengthening police powers against protesters in future.