Four climate change protesters who chained themselves to the main entrance of a high street bank have been found guilty of aggravated trespass.

The group, part of Extinction Rebellion, previously said they “did not know [they] were blocking a fire exit” when they wrapped a chain around their necks and railings outside Barclays in North Street, Brighton, on November 14 last year.

Susan Williams, 68, Nicola Harries, 68, Ian MacIntyre, 63, and John Kennedy, 44, all from Brighton, appeared for the verdict Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

They spoke only to confirm their names, dates of birth and addresses in the dock.

Supporters filled out the public gallery for the verdict.

All four defendants had pleaded not guilty to the offence.

Giving her verdict, District Judge Tessa Szagun said that the fact the group had trespassed on private land – the steps of Barclays – was not in dispute.

What was in dispute, however, was whether the defendants had intended to obstruct or disrupt the day-to-day business of the bank in doing so.

Summing up, Judge Szagun said: “The defendants made a conscious, deliberate decision.”

She said the four had deemed this “the most effective way to carry out the protest”.

“I am sure that the actions of the defendants did obstruct the day-to-day work of the bank. I am therefore sure that this was the intention of each of the defendants," said the judge.

“I find each defendant guilty of this offence.”

During the trial, which took place at the same court in October, the court heard evidence from the protesters who said they did not know they were blocking the fire exit when they chained themselves to the front door of the bank.

People were still able to access the bank using the building’s side entrance, the court heard.

One frustrated customer had said to the protesters "how dare you stop me" before going under their chains through the front door.

They were on the bank’s steps protesting against its investment in fossil fuels but did have a sign up which read “business as usual” which, the defendants said, directed people to a side door.

Defending, Jenna Doyle gave submissions to the judge ahead of sentencing.

She reiterated the four defendants’ good character and asked for conditional discharge.

Ms Doyle said: “Kennedy’s main concern and indeed the concern of all the defendants is to protect the planet for future generations.”

Sentencing, Judge Szagun said: “I have to consider culpability and harm.

“The defendants’ intention was deliberate and planned as part of a day of action, so culpability is within the highest level.

“Harm is mitigated by side access.”

The judge sentenced each of the defendants to pay fines and a victim surcharge which varied depending on their income.

They also will split the £2,000 court costs evenly.

It means the defendants will have to pay a sum of nearly £4,000 between them within 28 days.