For the past two weeks, six Extinction Rebellion activists have faced trial at Southwark Crown Court over more than £25,000 criminal damage to the frontage of the Shell building on the South Bank, which they’d carried out as part of the April Rebellion two years ago in London.
Due to recent precedents arising from the Stanstead 15 case, a defence of necessity is much harder to bring in front of a court in cases involving direct action, and in this trial Judge Gregory Perrin ruled it out from the start. However, because they were self-representing, they were still allowed to address the jury and explain why they had carried out their protest, describing the scientific evidence of the urgency of the planetary crisis, and the complicity of the Shell corporation in not only failing to change their business plans but also knowingly hiding or falsifying information, and lobbying heavily against government regulations that would affect their profits.
The Judge then directed the jury that five of the accused had “no defence in law”, while the sixth was allowed a defence that had Shell personnel known the full extent of Shell’s complicity in the climate emergency, they would have welcomed the action.
After deliberating overnight, the jury of seven women and five men returned yesterday afternoon and delivered a majority verdict of ‘not guilty’ for all six. This is effectively a ‘perverse judgement’, in which the jurors ignore the legal directions and instead ruled on a moral basis.
Real Media reported on a similar judgement during the October Rebellion when Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam was acquitted by a jury despite admitting to tens of thousands of pounds of damage in a campaign to force Kings College London to divest from fossil fuels.
Seven people had been charged initially with criminal damage offences, but one of the seven, Katarina Hasapopoulos decided to plead guilty after being told she could not bring her baby into the court. She will have a criminal record and face sentencing in a few weeks’ time, and will be denied justice because in the 21st century our justice system apparently cannot accommodate a breast-feeding mother who was moved to act out of defence of her children.
The verdict shows once again that when you select a cross-section of ordinary people untainted by lobbying, greed or power and ask them to make important decisions based on science and understanding, they tend to take a far more radical and principled stance than any government. This is a strong argument for the introduction of Citizens Assemblies to address the most pressing systemic issues that humanity faces. This is one of the demands that Extinction Rebellion is making, and also the policy of London Burning Pink mayoral candidate Valerie Brown.
Trust in people.