Press release: 1 March 2024 Inner London Crown Court: Judge threatens jury with criminal charges if they apply conscience to climate trial

‘Judge Dread’ takes aim at centuries old principle that juries can acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience

Judge Silas Reid, a Crown Court Judge sitting at Inner London Crown Court (dubbed ‘Judge Dread’ by Private Eye), has warned a jury in an ongoing trial of five women from Extinction Rebellion that applying their conscience to the case would be a crime:

“It is only on the evidence you are able to try the case and not on conscience …

It is a criminal offence for a juror to do anything from which it can be concluded that a decision will be made on anything other than the evidence.” [1]

The trial, which began on 19 February 2024, concerns a group of women who broke glass in case of climate emergency at JP Morgan’s European headquarters on 1st September 2021. JP Morgan has continued to invest vast sums in promoting fossil fuel projects around the world, despite their own economists warning in 2020 that climate breakdown, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, is a threat to the human race.

Judge Reid’s direction rides roughshod over the centuries old principle of ‘jury equity’ (also known as ‘jury nullification’) which means that juries can acquit a defendant if they consider that would be a just outcome, whatever the judge may direct. The principle, widely recognised as a vital democratic safeguard against the abuse of power, is set in stone at the original entrance to the Old Bailey.

Photograph of a plaque in the Old Bailey reading: 'Near this site William Penn and William Mead were tried in 1670 for preaching to an unlawful assembly in Grace Church Street. This tablet commemorates the courage and endurance of the jury Thos Vere, Edward Bushell and ten others who refused to give a verdict against them although locked up without food for two nights and were fined for their final verdict of not guilty. The cause of these jurymen was reviewed on a writ of Habeus Corpus and Chief Justice Vaughan delivered the opinion of the court which established 'The right of juries' to give their verdict according to their convictions'

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

“Judge Reid’s attempt to stamp out moral conscience from his courtroom is not only unconscionable. It’s a cynical and unlawful attempt to coerce the jury into reaching the verdict he wants. In 2019, he praised climate defenders as acting from the  “purest of motives” for a “noble cause”. Now he’s locking people up just for mentioning ‘climate change’ and ‘fuel poverty’ in his courtroom, arresting people for holding up signs with the law on, and threatening jurors against using their conscience, as they’re entitled to do. His role in criminalising and imprisoning so many noble and courageous people appears to have affected his mind.”

Judge ‘Silas Cnut’ bans the climate crisis from his courtroom

Judge Reid has adopted a novel approach to protecting himself from the climate crisis, which draws inspiration from King Cnut. In an impressive display of judicial authority he has directed  that the climate crisis should stay out of his courtroom. In the course of his directions to the jury in the JP Morgan case, given in open court yesterday, he declared:

“The circumstances of the damage do not include any climate crisis which may or may not exist in the world at the moment.” 

“Whether climate change is as dangerous as each of the defendants may clearly and honestly believe or is not, is irrelevant and does not form any part of the circumstances of the damage.” [2]

He has yet to comment on how the direction will be enforced, when his courtroom is underwater, (as is predicted for much of South London by 2050).

Previous character evidence

This is not the first time Judge Reid has courted controversy with his judicial war against those who claim climate change is real and dare to do something about it.

Last year he imprisoned three people just for mentioning the words ‘climate change’ and ‘fuel poverty’ in his courtroom, defying his ban on the use of those terms.

At about the same time, he threatened a Guardian journalist with contempt of court, on the basis that the journalist’s presence in court, at the same time that people broke his order on what words they could use, suggested he was ‘in on it’.

He had Trudi Warner, a 68 year-old retired social worker, arrested for upholding a sign outside court setting out the principle of jury equity. He then referred 24 more people to the Attorney General for doing the same thing. Judge Reid’s judicial zeal is evident from the fact that although hundreds of other people have done the same thing at courts across England and Wales, no other judge has found it necessary to intervene in this quiet exercise of free expression. Undeterred, last week Judge Reid made comments which caused DC David Honan, the police officer in the case, to threaten those holding signs on 22 February outside with arrest if they returned the next day (when the group returned the following day regardless, the police failed to show their faces.)

In June 2023, Judge Reid appeared to admit in open court that he had shifted the judicial goalposts on to prevent a recurrent pattern of not guilty verdicts. When the Revd Sue Parfitt asked him why he had disallowed certain facts in a trial, which he had previously admitted in evidence in a similar trial which resulted in her acquittal, he responded,Once bitten twice shy.”

Last February, one young climate defender took his own life, in between court appearances in front of Judge Reid.

Judge Reid’s far-reaching reputation

Judge Reid’s crusade has attracted attention further afield than Private Eye. Yesterday the UN published a major, international report, “State repression of environmental protest and civil disobedience: a major threat to human rights and democracy”. Although it does not refer to Judge Reid by name (Judge Reid is far from alone in his repressive measures), it alludes to his actions in the following passages:

“In the UK, courts have prohibited environmental protesters from putting forward defenses based on “necessity” or “proportionality”. They have also forbidden protesters from mentioning climate change, thereby preventing them from explaining the reasons for their protest. Courts have held convicted environmental defenders who disregarded this prohibition in “contempt of court” and imprisoned them for up to 8 weeks.” [p.17]

“Courts should not impose limitations on environmental protesters’ right to a defense, including to explain their motivation for engaging in protest, and should take into account these motivations in their decisions.” [p.22]

The international press, from the US to India, Spain to Japan, has reported on how Judge Reid instigated arrests of people upholding the principle of jury conscience on a sign:

“The right to protest is under threat in Britain, undermining a pillar of democracy”

A spokesperson for Defend Our Juries said:

“Even Judge Reid’s fellow judges, many of whom adopt a similar approach, if less brazenly, consider his rulings to be questionable. Nevertheless he continues to abuse his office to bully those whose courage and truthfulness he seems unable to bear, trashing in the process whatever reputation Britain has left for respect for the rule of law. We ask how can one judge be so unaccountable?”


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.



See also

Protestors must be allowed to explain motives in court” (The Times, 13 March 2023)

Jury Rigged” (Private Eye, February 2024)

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