Press release: 2 July 2024 Judge defies high court ruling by ordering arrest of 11 people for holding ‘whole truth’ signs

  • 11 arrested outside Southwark Crown Court this morning for holding signs saying “Juries deserve to hear the whole truth” and “Juries have the absolute right to acquit a defendant according to their conscience” on the orders of Judge Christopher Hehir
  • Judge’s action defies recent High Court ruling that “criminal prosecution is a disproportionate approach to this situation in a democratic society”
  • Intervention comes after United Nations Special Rapporteur for Environmental Defenders, Michel Forst, raises concerns about environmental defenders being prevented from explaining their motivations to the jury

11 arrested for holding signs outside court

Today, 2 July, police arrested a group of 11 people for holding signs outside Southwark Crown Court which said “Juries deserve to hear the whole truth” and “Juries have the absolute right to acquit a defendant according to their conscience.” A twelfth person, holding a blank sign, was not arrested. The police action was taken on the orders of Judge Hehir, a Crown Court Judge, who described the sign-holders as ‘trouble-makers’.

The Judge’s actions come amid mounting concerns that the government’s so-called ‘crackdown on protest’ is undermining fundamental democratic rights in the UK, such as rights to freedom of expression and assembly [1] [2].

Judge appears to defy High Court ruling in case of Trudi Warner

Judge Hehir’s actions are all the more extraordinary for their apparent defiance of the ruling of the High Court in the case of Trudi Warner. In March 2023, Judge Silas Reid ordered the arrest of Trudi Warner, a 69 year-old retired social worker, after she held a sign outside Inner London Crown Court which communicated the principle of jury equity: “JURORS ~ YOU HAVE AN ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO ACQUIT A DEFENDANT ACCORDING TO YOUR CONSCIENCE”. The Solicitor General, one of the government’s most senior lawyers, brought contempt of court proceedings against her, which were considered by the High Court in April this year. In dismissing the Solicitor General’s case, Mr Justice Saini ruled [3]:

“[I]t is fanciful to suggest that Ms Warner’s behaviour falls into this category of contempt. The category is limited to threatening, intimidatory, abusive conduct or other forms of harassment …

The prosecution of the Insulate Britain cases, the decisions of law reached by judges in those cases, and the scope for the jury to hear evidence on matters of conscience in relation to offences allegedly committed as acts of political protest have become matters of serious public debate …

A criminal prosecution is a disproportionate approach to this situation in a democratic society.”

There’s no question that Judge Hehir was aware of the High Court’s judgement. Raj Chada, one of the lawyers in the case he is currently hearing, referred it to him directly, urging the judge to ‘proceed with caution’.

Arrests follow unprecedented UN intervention

Last March, Judge Silas Reid banned defendants in Insulate Britain trials from using the words ‘climate change’ and ‘fuel poverty’ in court. He imprisoned a number of people just for using those words in court, in defiance of his order [4]. Earlier this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Environmental Defenders, Michel Forst, visited the UK and issued an unprecedented ‘End of Mission’ statement, which said [5]:

“I was also alarmed to learn that, in some recent cases, presiding judges have forbidden environmental defenders from explaining to the jury their motivation for participating in a given protest or from mentioning climate change at all. It is very difficult to understand what could justify denying the jury the opportunity to hear the reason for the defendant’s action, and how a jury could reach a properly informed decision without hearing it, in particular at the time of environmental defenders’ peaceful but ever more urgent calls for the government to take pressing action for the climate.”

On 24 June, Michel Forst issued a statement calling into question the legality of a prosecution of members of Just Stop Oil, indicating that he would attend the current trial being heard by Judge Hehir [6].

‘Arrogant muscle-flexing’

Following a pattern of jury acquittals in so-called ‘protest’ cases, which have embarrassed the government and vested interests in the arms and oil industries, some judges appear determined to do whatever it takes to secure guilty verdicts. In February, Judge Silas Reid threatened a jury with criminal proceedings if they applied their conscience to a case of a group of women who broke windows at JP Morgan, the leading financier of fossil fuel projects around the world [7]. The leading investigative journalist, Amy Westervelt, has unearthed evidence which suggests the crackdown is being driven not by public sentiment, but by so-called ‘think-tanks’, such as Policy Exchange, which are being funded by the fossil fuel industry [8]. Indeed that would explain why so many juries are reaching not guilty verdicts in these cases, when they are allowed to hear the context for the defendants’ actions.

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

Judges, such as Judge Hehir and Judge Reid, have no time for democratic principles such as trial by jury or freedom of expression. Like King Cnut, they act as if they can order the climate crisis, and the mass loss of life it is causing, to stay out of their courtrooms. They are taking increasingly desperate measures to secure the guilty verdicts they want for environmental defenders, including by threatening jurors and arresting people who peacefully exercise their democratic rights to freedom of expression and assembly. In defying the High Court and disregarding the concerns of the United Nations with their arrogant muscle-flexing, they imply that as Crown Court judges, they are above the law.”

Press contact: 07795 316164


Notes for editors

[1] “The right to protest is under threat in Britain, undermining a pillar of democracy”, Associated Press:

[2] UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention, Visit to London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 10-12 January 2024, End of mission statement:

[3] Solicitor General v Trudi Warner

[4] ‘Activists jailed for seven weeks for defying ban on mentioning climate crisis’:




[8] “Meet the Shadowy Network Vilifying Climate Protestors” (DeSmog):

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.