Earlier this month we reported from outside the Inner London Crown Court, where lawyers gathered to protest the imprisonment of climate activists for contempt of court.
The UK legal system has become a new battleground in the struggle for climate justice. The government keeps introducing ever more repressive protest legislation alongside restrictions over the grounds available to mount any legal defence, while juries made up of randomly selected members of the public are regularly acquitting climate activists after hearing their motivations for protest and the scientific evidence around carbon emissions.
The battle leads to uncertain and uneven justice. Real Media recently covered the several-week Crown Court trial of Burning Pink activists which ended with acquittals. Against a charge of Conspiracy to Damage Property, they were only permitted a single lawful defence – that of belief in consent. Within that restriction however, Judge Andrew Holmes gave some leeway, especially to self-representing defendants, including Burning Pink founder Roger Hallam, whose two-hour evidence to the jury we covered in full last month.
In stark contrast, juries at Inner London Crown Court have not been able to hear from Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil defendants what their motivations were for their actions. Under rules imposed by Judge Silas Reid, not only were activists warned not to even mention the climate crisis, fuel poverty, or the need for home insulation, but several have now been imprisoned by him for doing so in contempt of court.
Now, over 100 leading lawyers, in what is understood to be a first in legal history, have signed a declaration of conscience in which they pledge not to act on behalf of new fossil fuel developments, or in any actions against peaceful climate protesters.
The full list of signatories can be seen here, and include Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC, Chair of the British Institute of Human Rights, Farhana Yamin, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Imran Khan KC, who represented the family of Stephen Lawrence, Professor Leslie Thomas KC, Gresham Professor of Law, and Jolyon Maugham KC, founder of the Good Law Project, as well as younger lawyers such as, Aoife Fleming, Legal Coordinator for World’s Youth for Climate Justice, and Tim Hirschel-Burns, Co-founder, Law Students for Climate Accountability.
The surge in signatories, despite the prospect of disciplinary action for breach of professional regulations, comes as the IPCC released their synthesis report on Monday, a ‘final warning’ to humanity not begin any new fossil-fuel projects and to urgently fast-track all climate initiatives.
One of the drafters of the declaration, Matt Hutchings KC, said that “The IPCC has warned that continuing with implemented emissions policies will lead to projected global warming of 3.2°C this century. We are looking at a global catastrophe. The UK needs to divest from fossil fuels and invest in alternatives far more rapidly than we are. It is imperative that everyone, including lawyers, does what they can to make this happen.”
News of the declaration was embargoed prior to a planned protest outside the High Court next Wednesday, but in a shockingly unprofessional act, “journalists” from the Daily Mail ignored the embargo and wrote a predictably scathing report, referencing ‘woke’ and ‘lefty’ lawyers.