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ADP Group (Paris Airports) v. Climate Activists

Jurisdiction: Court of First Instance of Bobigny; Tribunal Correctional


Side A: ADP Group (Paris Airports) (Corporation)


Side B: Climate Activists (Individual)


Core objectives: Whether climate activists protesting the expansion of a Paris airport acted in a “state of necessity” to warn about the effects of climate change.


Summary
On October 3rd, 2020, hundreds of environmental activists protested in front of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport to protest the construction of a new terminal. 84 of them illegally entered the tarmac and stood in front of a plane on the ground, in a parking area. According to a news report, the ADP Group (Paris Airports) filed a claim against the activists for disturbing the operation of airport facilities. The 84 participants were subject to administrative proceedings and a fine of 750 euros each (for a total sum of 88,500 euros). In addition, seven of them, aged 20 to 43, were facing up to five years in prison and 18,000 euros in fines. Two of them were also subject to a complaint related to the destruction of a fence to let the other protestors in. The prosecutor requested sentences of one to three months suspended jail term (i.e., the sentence will be part of their criminal record but they will not serve any jail term unless they do a similar act within that period). 

In response to the prosecution, the activists argued they were acting according to their right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, they claimed that the seriousness of climate change meant they were acting in a state of necessity, which justifies an offense when necessary to warn of a future danger. In addition, they argued that they had tried protests and petitions before but that these did not alter the government’s decision to build an additional terminal. In contrast, the government announced that it would abandon the T4 project after their climate action. 

On November 12th, 2021, the court acquitted the activists. The court found that the activists acted to raise awareness about the adverse effects of climate change. As such, the measures were justified as a “state of necessity.” The court also acquitted the activists for refusing to allow a police officer to take their DNA. The court further reclassified the offenses from serious damage to light damage and fined two of the defendants to 500 euros each for cutting the fence around the airport.

Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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