Judge Silas Reid sentenced five women this morning at Inner London Crown Court after they were found guilty in a controversial trial which he oversaw in February. All five received prison sentences, but while four were suspended, he singled out Amy Pritchard for a custodial sentence of ten months. The women were accused of committing criminal damage without lawful excuse, relating to an alleged £306k bill for repairing windows they cracked in a “break glass in case of climate emergency” climate protest on Sept 1st 2021.

During their trial, Reid (dubbed ‘Judge Dread’ by Private Eye) cast doubt on the scientific evidence for climate change, directing the jury that “The circumstances of the damage do not include any climate crisis which may or may not exist in the world at the moment nor does it include whether nonviolent direct action can prompt change.”

The judge’s potentially prejudicial remark came on the very day that the UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention released a report castigating the UK for its ‘state repression of environmental protest and civil disobedience’, and reiterating the need to urgently cut emissions in line with the Paris agreement.

In a trial last year, defendant Reverend Sue Parfitt asked him to explain why he would not allow her to speak about the climate crisis, when he had allowed similar evidence to be heard in previous hearings. His response, “once bitten, twice shy”, suggested he might be waging a personal battle against climate protest rather than relying on legal principles. This suspicion is strengthened by another direction he gave to the jury in the JPMorgan case, warning them to try the case only on the evidence, not on conscience, and threatening that they would be “committing a criminal offence to do anything from which it can be concluded that a decision will be made on anything other than the evidence.” This warning came in response to the ‘Right To Acquit’ campaigners who had protested near the court, and would seem to contradict the High Court judge’s ruling on the matter. Read the history of this at https://realmedia.press/trudi-warner-juries-right-to-acquit/.

Amy Pritchard had previously been sent to prison for several weeks by Judge Reid for contempt of court after daring to mention the climate crisis in her Public Nuisance trial. Prior to sentencing, defendants are invited to make a ‘mitigation statement’ to the court. Hers is an act of defiance, honesty and bravery:

It’s difficult not to feel blind rage towards a system that has put me and many others into harmful, inhumane and dysfunctional UK prisons.
I broke the windows of JP Morgan because they are one of the biggest fossil fuel investors.  
The harm we are causing to all life, and to our incredible, beautiful world, is horrific.
Climate breakdown is an unbearable intergenerational injustice.
And yet the courts say this is irrelevant.
At our trial, the judge threatened and misinformed the jury. He admitted to intimidating them. This is a violent system. 
It is not me that society needs protecting from.
We know that when ordinary people take a stand against injustice, seemingly impossible change can happen. 
A Former UN climate chief said – Civil disobedience is not only a moral choice, it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics.
Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst said ‘The argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics’.  
The courts only seem concerned about the damage to a few windows. But the far greater damage is being done from activities inside those buildings. 
Finance, politics and law are failing to protect life. 
The reality is earth’s systems are breaking down.
I will not look away.  I will engage emotionally and physically. 
I will accept the consequences.  

Amy Pritchard (Photo: Gareth Morris)

A report last month showed that JPMorgan was by far the biggest fossil fuel funder ($43 billion) last year and has invested $430 billion since the 2016 Paris Agreement. Just last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on financiers to “stop bankrolling fossil fuel destruction and start investing in a global renewables revolution”.

A legal appeal over abuse of process is likely to be launched very soon over these convictions. In a similar trial last November, where motivation and climate concerns were allowed to be presented to the jury, nine women were acquitted over their action cracking the windows of HSBC headquarters.

In April JPMorgan sent a strategy report to their clients claiming that a ‘reality check’ was needed over the move away from fossil fuels and towards a target of ‘net-zero’, and blaming higher interest rates and government debt for changing the geopolitical landscape. The report has received much criticism from energy strategists and economists.

The report mirrors an attempted corporate backlash on ‘climate policies’, and emissions continue to rise even while scientific evidence of looming global disaster grows. Naomi Klein sums it up well: “Our economic system and our planetary system are at war … only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature”.

The five women sentenced today are: Stephanie Aylett, 29, a former medical device representative from St Albans; Pamela Bellinger, 67, a vegetable grower from Leicester; Amy Pritchard, 39, an agricultural and woodland worker from Liverpool; Adelheid Russenberger, 33 PhD student from Richmond, London; and Rosemary (Annie) Webster, 66, a retired cook and beekeeper from Dorchester, Dorset.

Photo credit: Gareth Morris


During the same week that Amy was sent to prison, the trial of six medics was being heard at Snaresbrook Crown Court, over a similar window-cracking protest at JPMorgan which took place just ahead of a record-breaking heatwave in July 2022.

Judge Pounder withdrew all legal defences from the two GPs, two consultants and two nurses who had allegedly caused £200k damage, but after two days of deliberation the jury could not reach a verdict on which enough of a majority agreed, and the prosecution has requested a retrial, likely to take place early in 2026.

In April, Real Media covered a protest outside a General Medical Council meeting over the organisation’s stance on climate protest and ahead of a medical tribunal hearing against Dr Sarah Benn which found her guilty of misconduct after being jailed for peacefully holding a placard in breach of a privately purchased court injunction.

Today’s trial result lends authority to the view that the GMC should not be punishing medical professionals engaged in peaceful protest action. They are running a public petition to that effect.