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Paralympian who glued himself to British Airways plane is freed from jail as judges decide on appeal

A former Paralympic athlete who was jailed after supergluing himself to the roof of a British Airways plane during an Extinction Rebellion protest has been released from jail while judges decide on his appeal.

Activist James Brown, 57, from Exeter, Devon, was jailed for 12 months by a judge at Southwark Crown Court in September after being convicted of causing a public nuisance at an earlier trial.

The partially sighted cyclist, who represented Great Britain and later Ireland before he was banned from athletics in 2016 for a doping violation, climbed onto the plane at London City Airport on the morning of October 10, 2019.  

Lawyers representing Brown today challenged his conviction and sentence at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

They said there had been no reason to charge Brown with causing a public nuisance, questioned the proportionality of the decision to bring the charge, and said he could have been charged with aggravated trespass. 

Activist James Brown, 57, from Exeter, Devon, was jailed for 12 months by a judge at Southwark Crown Court in September after being convicted of causing a public nuisance at an earlier trial

The partially-sighted cyclist, who represented Great Britain and later Ireland before he was banned from athletics in 2016 for a doping violation, climbed onto the plane at London City Airport on the morning of October 10, 2019

Brown's lawyers also told appeal judges that custody was not justified on the facts of the case.

They said the 12-month term was 'manifestly disproportionate' and said he was suffering 'unique hardship' in prison because of his disability.

Three appeal judges, Lord Burnett - the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Goss, said they would deliver a ruling on the appeal on a date to be fixed.

But they said Brown, who attended the appeal hearing via a video link from prison, could be released on bail pending the delivery of their ruling.

Judges imposed a bail condition that bars Brown from entering any airport where commercial flights operate.

Judge Gregory Perrins, who had jailed Brown, said when passing sentence that Brown had 'cynically used' his disability and put his 'own life at risk' to carry out the stunt.

The double gold medalist climbed onto the plane, which was destined for Amsterdam, before gluing his right hand to the aircraft and wedging his mobile phone in the door to prevent it from closing.

Northern Ireland-born Brown, who represented Great Britain in cycling and athletics before going on to represent Ireland in cross-country skiing, livestreamed the protest until he was removed after an hour.

Southwark Crown Court heard 337 passengers had their flights cancelled, missing birthday celebrations, important business meetings and family events, with the disruption costing the airline around £40,000.

Brown climbed onto the plane as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest in October 2019. Today, after being released from prison on bail, he said he was 'thrilled' and 'relieved'

Brown, who represented himself at his trial, denied one count of causing a public nuisance, claiming he had 'to do something spectacular' to draw attention to the climate crisis.

But he was found guilty in July after a jury deliberated for less than an hour.

Judge Perrins had told Brown: 'It is important that those who are tempted to seriously disrupt the lives of ordinary members of the public in the way that you did and then seek to justify it in the name of protest understand that they will face serious consequences.

'There is a clear dividing line between legitimate protest and deliberate offending, and you knowingly crossed it.'

After the appeal hearing, Brown said, in a telephone conversation with the PA news agency from Wandsworth prison: 'I am thrilled, I am relieved, I am excited to be going home.

'And I am tired. It’s been a hard slog.

'I’m looking forward to the ruling with interest.

'I have not changed my mind about the absolute need to protest.

'I cannot see what else is going to bring about change.

'All the gains we have made throughout history have come about through peaceful protest.'

'I think further protest will be necessary.'

James Brown is seen clinging to the fuselage of the plane at City Airport in a video that was streamed online by Extinction Rebellion

Brown’s daughter, Alice Brown, 27, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, said after the ruling: 'I am delighted.

'I am not exactly sure what it means in terms of the appeal judgment. But the inescapable stresses he has been under in prison - they are over now.”

'I was amazed by the sentence - and I wasn’t. I was amazed because it was a necessary protest. But I feel this is the way we are heading with this Government.'