Press Release: 15th May 2023 High noon at Crown Court as 24 people including lawyers, medics and Quakers defy Judge who jailed defendants for speaking about their motivations

In a poignant and unprecedented move today, a group of twenty-four ordinary people – seven medical professionals, three Quakers, a former Police Officer, a former lawyer, two teachers, a Church of England priest and ten others – are displaying signs around Inner London Crown Court in a show of solidarity with defendants being banned from talking about their motivations or using the words “climate change” or “fuel poverty” during their trials, three of whom have been sent to prison. [1][2]

The group are sitting on the pavement around the perimeter of the court from the Juror’s Entrance on Harper Road around and on to Newington Causeway. Each person is holding a sign which says, “Jurors have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to their conscience”.

The message might seem innocent enough – it’s a summary of a well established principle of the British legal system, set in marble at the original entrance to the Old Bailey – but Judge Silas Reid has already ordered the arrests of four people displaying the same message in close proximity to Inner London Crown Court. [3][4][5]

As the group gather around the court building a letter will be delivered to the court addressed to Judge Reid notifying him of their presence outside and explaining why they are there. [6]

Supporters of the group will hold a short press conference from 11AM in Newington Gardens accessed via Harper Road, the park behind the court attended by spokespeople, including Matt Hutchings KC.

Currently those facing trial under Judge Reid’s legal rulings are banned from mentioning the rights of jurors, the importance of morality in the application of British law, and the significance of why previously law-abiding citizens are prepared to risk breaking the law in order to uphold our collective right to survive and to safeguard civil society. [7]

Indigo Rumbelow, 29, a Spokesperson for Just Stop Oil from London said;

Judge Reid faces a choice today: either he orders the arrest of the legal and health professionals, Quakers and teachers; or he retreats and pretends to ignore us, thus exposing his previous decisions as unprincipled and inconsistent.

This is the dilemma we are posing to him. In 2023, knowing what we do, it is not possible for Judge Reid and other legal professionals involved in the criminalisation of people in peaceful civil resistance to ‘maintain’ their positions as moral and balanced custodians of British Law whilst also locking people up for sharing publicly available information.”

Dr Juliette Brown, 52 a Consultant Psychiatrist and Spokesperson with Doctors for XR from London said;

“We’re ordinary people, worried about our safety, security, health, the rule of law and a stable, cohesive society. When governments are failing to protect us from harm, we must have the chance to say so, and to explain our actions to a jury of our peers.”

Paul Stephens, 58, a former Police Officer and Spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion from London said; 

“I joined the police in 1983 to protect the good people from the bad. Simplistic I know but I was 19. The legal system in the UK is doing the exact opposite. They are protecting polluters, allowing increased harm and obscene profits; whilst prosecuting people trying to save life in a way that is so unjust; gagging them from sharing their motivation with the jury. Extinction changes everything and the legal system must wake up and become a force for good.”

Joanna Hindley, 57, a Midwife and a Quaker from Birmingham said; 

I try to live according to the deepest truth I know. This means speaking the truth at all times, including to people in positions of power. As I am guided by integrity, so I expect to see it in public life. 

I am deeply troubled threefold: that defendants whom I personally know and respect have been sent to prison for telling the truth; that the rights and duty of jury members to decide their verdict on the basis of their collective individual consciences have not been upheld – thereby compromising the fundamental human right to trial by jury; and that those who have sought to uphold jury members’ rights to act on the basis of conscience, have been arrested.”

Dr Diana Warner, 64, a retired GP and Spokesperson for Insulate Britain from Bristol said;

“We have juries for a reason – to make sure that laws keep people safe, and that laws keep true to our moral values. Juries have withstood the test of centuries and may be more important now than ever before. When governments and some corporations are putting our lives in danger, as they are doing now, the independence of the jury is one of our last safety mechanisms.”

Matt Hutchings KC a Barrister from London said in support today; 

“Our country is in crisis. The root cause is a clash between a government and media bosses who are acting at the behest of the fossil fuel industry, and our citizens, ordinary people who are calling for a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels to green and clean energy. 

When people are charged with offences which they committed because of their sincere beliefs about the climate crisis, the jury should be allowed to hear evidence about these beliefs. It is not right that juries are prevented by judicial directions from hearing the truth about why the defendants are in the dock.    

The eminent judge Sir Patrick Devlin wrote in his book ‘Trial by Jury’ that juries were “an insurance that the criminal law will conform to the ordinary man’s idea of what is fair and just”. At a time when our democratic values and institutions are under attack, it is vital that we defend one of our sacred democratic principles: the independence of juries.”

Melinda Janki, Guyana-based lawyer, and winner of the Commonwealth Rule of Law prize, 2023 said in support today; 

For decades ExxonMobil suppressed evidence that burning fossil fuels would destroy the global climate system. Today we in the Global South are living with the impacts. People are dying. Animals are dying. It is unconscionable and contrary to the rule of law for any judge to seek to suppress evidence of the destructive impacts of fossil fuels.”

Rabbi Jeffery Newman from North London said in support today; 

“Intention is an ancient concept, fundamental in Jewish & British law, for example in distinguishing between murder and manslaughter. It seems to me, therefore, that we cannot disregard motivation when we come to look at actions and consequences in other contexts. 

As a Jew, and a rabbi – that is, a Jewish teacher – I have had to think very carefully about issues of obedience to the law and where and when a state may enact laws that a citizen, after careful and honest consideration, decides cannot and should not be obeyed. At such times, courageous protest by posters, placards or leaflet distribution have been prohibited by repressive regimes. Judges have sometimes focussed the attention of juries too narrowly thereby causing much harm. 

At this time, we must consider with all due wisdom the needs of our planet and all its species and of future generations as we assess the proportionality of protest.”

Legal outcomes for those engaged in nonviolent civil resistance are becoming increasingly polarised, leading to claims of a “justice lottery”. On the one hand, there has been a pattern of jury acquittals, when defendants have been permitted to explain the motivations in court [8][9][10]; earlier this year, a Judge spoke out by telling members of Just Stop Oil he was “moved” by their actions; and in March,170 leading lawyers declared they would refuse to prosecute members of nonviolent climate movements. [11][12]

On the other, peaceful campaigners are now being arrested just for holding signs, have been banned from presenting their motivations to the jury, and in a recent case imprisoned for 3 years (more than the starting point sentence for a serious sexual assault). [13]

In April, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to the British Government to express alarm at the Public Order Act and the repression of campaigners:

“As the world faces the triple planetary crises of climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution, governments should be protecting and facilitating peaceful protests on such existential topics, not hindering and blocking them.” [14]

The show of peaceful resistance at Inner London Crown Court comes just days after yet more evidence of escalating climate breakdown leading to societal collapse: deadly wildfires in Siberia, flash-floods in Somerset, and floods which have left hundreds dead in the Congo. [15][16][17]


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Notes to Editors

[1] David Nixon jailed: 

[2] Amy Pritchard and Giovanna Lewis jailed: 

[3] Principle of Jury Nullification: 

[4] Trudi Warner arrested: 

[5] Cathy Eastburn, Sally Davidson and Oliver Rock arrested:

[6] Letter notifying Judge Reid:

[7] “Protestors must be allowed to explain motives in court” Times article

[8] Extinction Rebellion acquittals:

[9] Burning Pink Group acquittal:

[10] Insulate Britain supporters acquittals: and 

[11] Judge ‘moved’: 

[12] Lawyer’s Declaration: 

[13] Just Stop Oil Supporters jailed for 3 years: 

[14] UN High Commissioner writes to UK Government: 

[15] Siberia wildfires: 

[16] Somerset floods:

[17] Deadly floods in Congo: