A notorious Brighton activist who plotted to attack a drone factory with sledgehammers and paint has avoided going to prison today.
Tony Greenstein, 69, was told by a judge at Wolverhampton Crown Court that his persistent blogging and behaviour in court almost landed him with a prison sentence.
He and three others were found guilty in May of planning an attack on the Israeli-owned Elbit Systems factory in Shenstone, near Walsall.
But today, His Honour Judge Michael Chambers said he was going to give Greenstein and his co-defendants the benefit of the doubt when they insisted they would no longer undertake violent protests.
Greenstein, Ibrahim Samadi, 26, Alex Waters, 26, and Jeremy Parker, 55, were all given suspended sentences.
Following the hearing, chants of “Free, free Palestine” and whoops of joy and laughter were heard in court.
Judge Chambers told Greenstein: “Are you going to do it again? I don’t accept that there is a low risk of you reoffending.
“One only has to look at your blogs and actions and to have heard your evidence to see that the risk in your case is potentially significant.
“But you have assured the author of the pre sentence report that you don’t intent to reoffend in this way.
“Despite my concern I am prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt.
“There is a realistic prospect of rehabilitation, you are genuine carer for your autistic son and you have no relevant convictions. I am persuaded in your case that the sentence should be suspended.”
Earlier during the three-hour sentencing hearing, Judge Chambers told the defendants that the offences clearly reached the custody threshold.
He said: “You each demonstrated an unswerving, blinkered commitment to your cause.
“It was clear from the evidence you gave to the jury that you were unrepentant.”
“It’s apparent to everyone that … public attitudes have hardened towards tolerance for extreme actions or minorities choosing disruption or criminal damage rather than using the main routes that are open to protest in a democratic society.
“That has also been reflected by recent decisions of the court of appeal.”
Tony Greenstein, who is well known in Brighton both for his anti-Israel activism and for being expelled from the Labour party for abusing fellow members,
Following the verdict, he was ordered by the judge to take down several blog posts in which urged jurors to acquit him and his co-defendants as a matter of conscience – which the judge said constituted “serious contempt”.
During the trial, the jury heard Greenstein hired a van on March 8, 2021, from Choices Vehicle Rentals in Beaconsfield Road, where the manager said he seemed frantic.
The van was then driven to Walsall in the West Midlands, where it was loaded with sledgehammers, smoke bombs, ladders, superglue, a crowbar and fire extinguishers adapted to spray red paint.
Greenstein also picked up other members of Palestine Action, a group whose stated aim is to shut down Israeli arms company Elbit Systems.
When police stopped the van in the early hours of the next morning, they found members of the group in the back wearing red boilersuits, which its protesters wear when ‘occupying’ targets.
Greenstein told police he was just going for a drive, but after he was released on bail, he posted on his blog that he had been arrested “whilst driving a van to Elbit Systems Shenstone factory.
“We were intent on redecorating the premises of Elbit in the blood red colour of their victims.”
The police investigation subsequently found that Parker, whose mother lives in Walsall, used the name Bob Palmer to order the red boilersuits, which were delivered to his mum’s house.
An Airbnb was also booked in the town under the name of Huda Ammori, the joint founder of Palestine Action, where half the group changed into red boilersuits.
Greenstein and the other five people in the van were all charged with possessing an article with the intent to destroy property.
Bethany Croarkin of no fixed abode pleaded guilty before the trial began.
Greenstein, who now lives in Belgrave Place, Ibrahim Samadi, an engineer from Cambridge, and Alex Waters, a landscape gardener and parish councillor for Forest Row, were all given nine months, suspended for two years and ordered to to attend 20 rehabilitation action requirement days.
Greenstein must do 80 hours of unpaid work, and Samadi and Waters 150 hours.
Jeremy Parker, from Birmingham, was given a 12 month sentence, suspended for two years, ordered to attend 20 rehabilitation action requirement days and do 150 hours of unpaid work.
The court was told Parker, who stood as a Green Party parliamentary candidate in Ealing North in 2019, has lost his job as an IT professional as a result of the trial.
Following the trial, the jury failed to reach a verdict against the final defendant, Helen Caney from North Shields. She will be retried at a future date.
Croarkin will be sentenced at a future date. Before the sentencing, Judge Chambers ruled on an application from their defence counsel that he should recuse himself for requiring them to lift their burqua so they could be identified and not always refer to them with they/them pronouns after they identified themselves to the court as non-binary.
But Judge Chambers refused the application, saying they had turned up to the many early hearings in conventional dress, and when he asked them to lift the veil it was to check their ID as he was suspicious their application to change plea to guilty was a ploy to help the other defendants.
He said he had tried to use them/they pronouns after the diagnosis of gender dysphoria was served to the court, and any slip was not disrespectful – noting their defence counsel also sometimes used the wrong pronouns too.
This article was amended on 7 September to clarify the van was loaded with equipment in Walsall, not Brighton, and that only people in the back of the van were wearing boilersuits when it was stopped by police.