UCI cycling race protestors walk free from court

Three climate change activists who forced the Men's Elite Road Race at the UCI Cycling World Championships in Scotland to grind to a halt have walked free from court.

Sheriff Grant McCulloch told Catriona Roberts, 21, Rebecca Kerr, 28, and Romane Moulin, 26, that they would be admonished for their actions in August.

He also said he "understood" why they had broken the law.

The event was paused in Denny with just over 190km (118 miles) remaining.

A fourth accused, Ben Taylor, 29, was fined £250 after the sheriff said he was becoming "a professional protestor".

After a three-and-a-half hour trial at Falkirk Sheriff Court, Sheriff McCulloch ruled it was "obvious" that the actions of all four protestors, from anti-oil group This Is Rigged, amounted to a breach of the peace.

He also dismissed a submission from Taylor that his actions had been justified "like the Suffragettes" by telling him: "The Suffragettes were convicted."

The court heard that the protestors had been spotted looking "dishevelled" and hiding in bushes beside the narrow road in the Carron Valley, Stirlingshire, before the UCI peloton was due to pass.

road race
Elite cyclists were stopped by a demonstration in the Carron Valley area

It took them less than 30 seconds to set off pink powder cannons, pour superglue on their hands, and stick themselves to the tarmac.

Taylor and Kerr sat back-to-back locked together by a cycling D-lock round their necks. Taylor then threw the keys onto a grass verge.

Meanwhile, Moulin and Roberts locked themselves together with a large bike chain.

The incident happened sometime after 11:00 on 6 August on the B818 road near the Carronbridge Hotel, Denny, causing the 271km (168 miles) race to be paused.

It was later won by Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel.

PC Gregor Malcolm, of Police Scotland's protestor removal team, said the cyclists' peloton was stopped at a very narrow stretch of road, which the court heard had been chosen for that reason by Taylor.

Officers had to make their way through the stationary peloton and found the four accused were "all quite substantially glued to the road surface".

He told the court the cyclists were "incredibly upset".

road race
The race was restarted after protesters were removed and a white powder was laid on the road

PC Malcolm added: "It's an individual event, which is unusual in cycling, so there was a lot of anger at being stopped.

"Many of these athletes train for years for a one-off race which can make or break their careers."

Officers had to use a chemical de-bonder to release the group's hands from the road, all of which took more than 10 minutes.

Police also had to search the verge for the D-lock keys and undo Taylor from Kerr.

The four accused said they were protesting about the involvement of petrochemical firms in the event, and the granting of new licences for oil production in the North Sea, and denied a charge of breach of the peace.

Mathieu van der Poel
Dutch cyclist Mathieu van der Poel triumphed to become as the new men's road race world champion

From the witness box, Roberts, of Edinburgh, said: "If your house is on fire and you run into the road, rooted in fear, and you block the traffic, it is not a breach of the peace."

Taylor, of Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, said the wider cycling community was "complicit and ignorant about oil and gas companies sponsoring their races".

And Moulin, of Glasgow, said she had acted for the "greater good" and been disruptive "to prevent disruption to millions".

Sheriff McCulloch told the accused: "Hundreds of cyclists had to grind to a halt on this narrow road because of the actions of four people.

"The potential for a serious disturbance is obvious."

The sheriff said he did not consider a defence of necessity or justification had been made out.

And he stated that while the protest was peaceful it was not "proportionate".