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Extinction Rebellion activists found not guilty of Schlumberger Centre damages

Cambridge XR activists found not guilty of £28,000 damage to Schlumberger Research Centre

Marcus Lugg and Christopher Ford, two XR Cambridge members, were found Not Guilty of causing an alleged £28,ooo of damage to Schlumberger (SLB)’s Cambridge centre on the University’s West Site.

This is following a climate protest in July 2020, at which they were accused of damaging the external shutters of the building by hitting them with drumstick and lifting them up during a Samba band performance. The pair were then arrested along with three other people.

SLB in particular has close ties with the university, ranging from funded PhD programmes to a research centre at West Hub, on land leased from the University. Here experiments have been conducted involving a Schlumberger drilling fluid at the Department of Chemical Engineering and a Department of Engineering project investigating solutions for vibration damage to drill strings. Both of these experiments directly contribute to the development of new oil and gas technology.

(Image credits: XR Cambridge)

In the Cambridge Crown Court, the Cambridge Prosecution Service revealed, in an unexpected turn, that they no longer intended to offer any evidence against the activists, as they thought that there was no longer a high chance of conviction. This is following a long process that has lasted for almost three years. Lugg and Ford were originally charged almost a year after their arrest and had their first hearing with the Magistrate’s court in November 2021. This was subsequently pushed back four times until a hearing in November 2023.

Lugg said: “I can’t believe this ridiculous case has gone on so long. I remember when I received the charge in the post accusing me of £28,000 of damage – my blood went cold. I couldn’t understand how I could possibly have caused that with a wooden drumstick weighing just 45g. Everyone around me thought that the trial was politically motivated to silence and scare us so that we wouldn’t go back and make more noise about Schlumberger’s fossil fuel extraction and cosy relationship with the University of Cambridge.”

“This experience has made me very happy to share the news that, since XR Cambridge started their Schlumberger Out! campaign in 2021, its open letter to remove SLB from Cambridge has had over 1,800 signatures, including Sir Mark Rylance, Rowan Williams, and hundreds of local people and organisations. Before the campaign, most people thought SLB was a tech company and not one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel extraction companies – they don’t think that anymore. It feels like SLB have backed down because of this increased public awareness.”

The Cambridge Schlumberger Out! campaign has seen many more protests since July 2020. Occupations, shut downs and blockades, along with paint being thrown at the front of its entrance form part of its fight against the University’s ties with companies such as Schlumberger. The Campaign has the following demands:

  1. Cut all ties: University of Cambridge to stop collaborating with Schlumberger.
  2. Kick them out: Schlumberger out of Cambridge city.
  3. Repair the harm: Schlumberger to stop profiting off planetary destruction and commit to climate reparations.

The University of Cambridge and SLB have been contacted for comment. 

Featured Image Credits: XR Cambridge