Press release: 23 October 2023 Young woman arrested in dawn police raid for holding a sign with the law on it
At 6.15am on Wednesday 18 October, 5 policemen pulled up outside the house of a young woman in an unmarked police car. They threatened to break down her door. After her housemate opened the door, they handcuffed her, still in her pyjamas, and arrested her. Her house was searched and papers, leaflets and banners seized. She was taken into police custody, interviewed and released 8 hours later.
Replicating a sign in the Old Bailey – perverting the course of justice?
Her supposed crimes? Holding up a sign with the law on it outside Inner London Crown Court in May of this year. With precisely the same words that are on a plaque set in marble in the Old Bailey (see last two lines in the picture below). And giving a speech about civil resistance.
One of many
The first person to be arrested for holding up a jury conscience sign was the 68 year-old retired social worker, Trudi Warner in March. Since then more than 300 people have held up similar signs outside criminal courts. In July, 40 of them wrote a letter to the Solicitor General to say, “If you prosecute Trudi Warner, you should prosecute us too.” None of those others have been arrested, although some have been interviewed by the police. On 25 September, 253 people held similar signs outside Crown Courts, openly and transparently. None of them were asked to move (either by the police or court staff).
Why has Indigo Rumbelow been targeted for arrest?
So why was one young woman singled out from so many? Although holding the sign was presented as the main reason for her arrest, she was also questioned about giving a speech for Just Stop Oil (see pic below). She appears to have been targeted for this reason. Not arrested out of consistent application of the law. But harassed as a political opponent of the government.
Last week, the UN described the British Government’s escalating repression of protest as “terrifying”.
Measures to undermine jury trial by stealth
The demonstrations come in response to measures to prevent juries reaching not-guilty verdicts in trials of the government’s political opponents, following a pattern of jury acquittals in trials of members of groups such as Palestine Action, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil. Measures include juries being directed by judges that no defence is available and defendants being banned from explaining their reasons for their actions (and even being sent to prison if they try). People are being banned from explaining to the jury a jury’s right to acquit on their conscience (a principle known as ‘jury nullification’), even though it is a well established constitutional safeguard, which is still taught to children in schools.
Maxing out on oil and gas ruled lawful
On 19 October, the day immediately following Ms Rumbelow’s arrest, the High Court ruled it was lawful for the Government to expand the production of oil and gas, despite failing to consider the impact on climate breakdown. Philip Evans, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK, one of the organisations to bring the legal challenge, said: “If you told most people that the government is allowed to approve new oil and gas while ignoring 80% of the emissions it would produce, they simply wouldn’t believe you.”
Indigo Rumbelow said:
“Last May, I held up a sign with the law on it. I was sitting down along with others. It was a simple and peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. 5 months later, the police charged into my house at the crack of dawn, handcuffed me and took me into custody. Is this what democracy looks like?”
Dr Juliette Brown, consultant psychiatrist, and spokesperson for Defend Our Juries, said:
“Handcuffs and dawn raids on peaceful campaigners are the chilling signs of a repressive state hellbent on protecting power and profit from legitimate challenge. Clearly this is an attempt to intimidate with no sense of shame or reflection from a police force found to be institutionally racist, sexist, homophobic and unable to police itself.”
Paul Powlesland, barrister and member of the collective, Lawyers Are Responsible, said:
“Last year I was threatened with arrest for holding up a blank piece of paper. The absurdity of that situation made headline news. A dawn raid by 5 police officers for holding up a simple and truthful sign takes the surreal state of repression in this country to another level. But this one’s harder to laugh about.”
Melinda Janki, lawyer and winner of the Commonwealth Rule of Law Prize, 2023, said:
“Twenty years ago, in the case of Anufrijeva, Lord Steyn held that the UK was not a state where the rights of individuals could be overridden by hole in the corner decisions or knocks on doors in the early hours. But that is exactly what is happening now. The UK is rapidly becoming a byword for oppression, abuse of power, and disregard for the norms of international law.”
Tom Goodman, solicitor, said:
“It is extremely disturbing to hear of the arrest of Indigo Rumbelow. The action that she took – together with others – at the Inner London Crown Court on 15 May 2023, was to support the integrity of jury trials. She sat silently and held a placard which simply stated the law. I believe what she did was an appropriate and proportionate response to what she sees – and I agree – is a threat to the integrity of jury trials.”
Dr Clive Dolphin, spokesperson for Defend Our Juries, said:
“This latest action takes this story from the surreal to the chillingly absurd. Over 300 people have sat silently outside of courts with a statement that this country was once so proud of it had it above the door of the old bailey. Most of these people signed letters saying why they were carrying out their actions. 40 people wrote directly to the Solicitor General. But it is a single woman that is subject to a dawn raid by no less than 5 police officers. Does Met police believe someone who voluntarily identified themselves is a flight risk? Or is this just intimidation?
When people have been told what is happening in “open” court, they have been shocked and surprised. If anything this intimidation is likely to motivate more people to defend the rights of juries. I’m expecting more demonstrations not less.”
Additional context and background
For more on the Defend Our Juries campaign see defendourjuries.org
“Trudi Warner reveals the dark secret of English courts: juries do have the right to follow their consciences” (Professor Richar Vogler, Guardian, 27 September 2023)
“Big Oil Billions and The Real Cancel Culture Threatening Brits With Prison for Telling the Truth” (Byline Times, 25 August 2023)
“Contempt threat against climate activist may undermine trial by jury, lawyers say” (Guardian, 26 July 2023)
The Defend Our Juries campaign aims:
- 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
- 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‘)
- 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.
Press contact: 07795 316164
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