Press release: 21 February 2024 BREAKING, LONDON: Peaceful ‘makeover’ of Royal Courts of Justice – members of the public hold People’s Assembly inside RCJ to highlight threat to British justice and democracy

  • With hundreds of innocent subpostmasters yet to be compensated for their wrongful imprisonment, as the Government undermines trial by jury for those holding government and corporations to account, more than 100 people have gathered inside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, to hold a ‘People’s Assembly’ (or ‘Citizens Jury’) on whether the British Justice system serves the public interest or the interests of international finance and corporations.
  • The unprecedented action coincides with three simultaneous court hearings all in the same court: i) the Attorney General’s attempt to stop juries reaching not guilty verdicts in trials of those taking direct action to support peace, climate action or democracy; ii) the final appeal against extradition of Julian Assange; iii) legal challenges to the Government’s net zero target.
  • Participants have circulated a note to court staff explaining there is no intention to disrupt any court activity, but only to conduct a lawful and peaceful assembly. They have indicated an intention to remain in place until the assembly has concluded. So far there have been no arrests.
  • The action follows the news on Sunday that the Labour Party plans to introduce citizens’ juries after ‘transformational success in Ireland’.

Today, 21 February, over 100 people have gathered within the central hall at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, to hold a series of peaceful People’s Assemblies or ‘Citizens Juries’, in what is being described as ‘a makeover’ of British Justice. The Assembly has been prompted by the Attorney General’s application, being heard in court today, to stop juries acquitting people taking direct action against climate change and for peace in Gaza. Judge Reid, who is currently hearing a trial at Inner London Crown Court, which would be affected by the ruling, said on Monday he was ‘hopeful’ the Court of Appeal would reach a decision today (despite that being unusual for the Court of Appeal).

But it will also include consideration of the wider legal landscape, including the Post Office scandal, the lack of legal accountability for the bosses of the banks responsible for the financial crisis of 2008, the bosses of the oil and water companies that have caused so much destruction to our land, air and waters, and for the Ministers responsible for violations of international agreements, including the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Refugee Convention and UN rulings on Gaza.

Assembly reflects three momentous cases heard simultaneously at the Royal Courts of Justice

The three themes of the assembly reflect the three cases of far-reaching significance which are being heard simultaneously at the Royal Courts of Justice today.

Armistice walk out – over 100 walk out of hearing on removal of the last remaining legal defence

At 11:11 hrs, in remembrance of the democratic freedoms our grandparents fought for, over 100 citizens quietly stood up and left the public gallery of courtroom 4 in the Royal Courts of Justice (and a spillover court), as the court deliberated on removing the last remaining legal defence currently left open to people taking direct action for the environment and for peace. [3] Those people have now reconvened together in the central hall of the RCJ.

Three People’s Assemblies held within the central hall

In an expression of authentic justice and democracy, members of the public are currently holding three people’s assemblies, providing a space for people to discuss the issues arising from the court hearings together. People’s Assemblies are used around the world successfully by local authorities, governments and communities to present issues of public relevance and gain agreement on actions or decisions needed. On Sunday, it was announced that the Labour Party likewise plans to introduce Citizens Assemblies [4].

The concerned members of the public have formed three Citizens Juries to consider the following questions: 1) When did it become a crime to tell the truth?2) Why not trust juries to hear the full story?; and 3) Does the British Government respect International Law? Each court will produce a judgement, which will be circulated to members of the press.

The People’s Assembly at the Royal Courts of Justice today is entirely lawful and peaceful, and will cause no disruption to the ordinary running of the court. Nonetheless, if court security or police attempt to forcibly break up the assembly, many of those involved are willing to risk arrest.

Those attending the People’s Assembly have gathered wearing T-shirts that read “The People v. The Corporate State”A Banner saying, “Welcome to the People’s Assembly” has been unfurled within the central hall.

A spokesperson for the campaign group, Defend Our Juries, said:

“The rule of law means that no-one should be above the law, even if they are rich and powerful. But what we’re seeing in reality is that the bosses of the big banks and corporations such Fujitsu, or BP and Thames Water are as untouchable as the crime bosses in a mafia state – no matter the damage they cause or the lives they destroy. On the other hand, good people like all those sub-postmasters and peace campaigners, are prosecuted and imprisoned, just for doing their job or for taking measures to protect life.

“The courts belong to the public, not the big corporations. That’s why we’re holding this peaceful assembly in the Royal Courts of Justice today. In defence of the rule of law, trial by jury and our democracy. Given the state of repression in Britain right now, which the UN has recently described as ‘terrifying’, we’re prepared for arrest if it comes to it. But that would make our point for us. We’re not out to cause disruption. We’re peacefully exercising our democratic right to freedom of assembly to address the crisis in our justice system. If the court has us arrested, it’s the court that’s acting unlawfully, not us.”


Notes for editors

Press contact: 07901 916489 / 07950 953004 / 07301 315352


See also:

“Jury Rigged” (Private Eye, Feb 24)

“Climate change protesters could lose defence” (The Times, 15 Feb 24)

“‘Assault on rights of juries’: activist decries Tory challenge to legal defence for protesters” (The Guardian, 19 Feb 24)
“Pivotal case in UK law begins over climate protest at JPMorgan offices”
 (Financial Times, 19 Feb 24)

About Defend our Juries:

Defend Our Juries has the following aims:

  1. to bring to public attention the programme to undermine trial by jury in the context of those taking action to expose government dishonesty and corporate greed
  2. to raise awareness of the vital constitutional safeguard that juries can acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience, irrespective of a judge’s direction that there is no available defence (a principle also known as ‘jury equity’ or ‘jury nullification‘)
  3. to ensure that all defendants have the opportunity to explain their actions when their liberty is at stake, including by explaining their motivations and beliefs.

[1] Location for Photos here

[2, 3]

[4] Sue Gray announces citizen juries that will bypass Whitehall