Scientist in court for handing out leaflet

Protesters outside the airport, preparing to march to Luton Town Centre

Physicist Dr Robert Basto will appear at Luton Magistrates Court this week charged with not leaving the airport when requested (bylaw 2.24) after attempting to hand out leaflets alerting people to the climate emergency. 

Dr Basto’s arrest took place at London Luton Airport on 18 January 2020, where Extinction Rebellion protesters were preparing to march from the airport to the town centre, to demonstrate against the proposed airport expansion.

Dr Basto entered the terminal building with other demonstrators to hand out leaflets. Police stated leafleting was not permitted and arrested Dr Basto as he approached a member of the public with a leaflet.

He will attend a plea hearing at Luton Magistrates Court this coming Thursday 20 February at 2:00pm, where he intends to plead not guilty.

Dr Basto said:

“Whilst handing out leaflets may be against the bylaws at Luton, being arrested is a heavy handed and extreme response to the peaceful act of informing people of the dangers we face.

Leafleting has been allowed at Gatwick and other airports. Luton Council own the airport and have declared a climate emergency in January, so I hope they will reconsider this policy of not allowing passengers to be informed of the detrimental effects of flying.

We are at a critical point in human existence, we have little time to avoid catastrophe due to the destabilised climate. This is a time when courage is needed to face up to the challenges ahead and accept that change is needed, both by industry and individuals – we urgently need to reduce the amount of flying we do.”

Rob Basto, 72, from Reigate, Surrey has been campaigning on issues relating to the climate emergency for nearly 20 years. He was one of the “Heathrow 13” who blocked the runway at Heathrow airport in 2015 and has also campaigned against fracking – the use of environmentally damaging techniques for the extraction of oil and gas in the UK.

Dr Patil Mead, a supporter of Extinction Rebellion from St. Albans who was also in the airport says:

“The climate & ecological emergency is a health emergency. As a doctor I feel unable to stand by knowing the well-recognised public health effects of climate change, particularly in view of the more immediate & specific health effects of the aviation sector in airport locations. Luton Council’s own 2018 report highlighted 86 excess deaths in the vicinity of the airport, even before the proposed expansion.

The lack of value for the health and lives of those based in Luton is both medieval and criminal. Action taken to highlight this disproportionate effect on normal people is not the moral crime here. The draconian response from the airport authorities to conceal their ethical crime against local residents demonstrates the complete disregard that the establishment has for normal, hardworking people.”

Nigel Harvey a supporter of Extinction Rebellion from St. Albans who was also in the airport says:

“We are in a climate emergency. We are running out of time to make the radical changes needed to tackle the crisis. We must face what David Attenborough described as irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies. And yet, Luton police and airport management would not even allow us to peacefully distribute leaflets to travellers. It beggars belief. It is immoral.”

Additional Information:

Luton Council own 51% of London Luton Airport. The council declared a climate emergency in January this year.

The Heathrow 13 from the campaign group Plane Stupid blocked the North runway at Heathrow for around 6 hours in 2015. They were found guilty of aggravated trespass and given 6 weeks suspended custodial sentence.

Contact details

Extinction Rebellion UK:
Luton group press contact: Jim Peacock,

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