Show solidarity with the 4 Elbit activists who have been convicted of trying to prevent war crimes
This meeting has been called because 4 Palestine Action protesters, including myself, were convicted on May 16 of ‘intent to cause criminal damage’ to the Shenstone factory of Israeli arms company Elbit which manufactures engines which power the drones that murder and maim Palestinian civilians, including children.
We were arrested on March 9 2021 whilst driving to the factory. Two months later Israel attacked Gaza and murdered over 250 people, including 50 children.
The eagerness to prosecute for breaches of the law doesn’t extend to Boris Johnson or powerful politicians involved in the COVID frauds
Of course Elbit Systems Ltd. could have been prosecuted under the International Criminal Courts Act 2001 of being ancillary to the commission of war crimes. Section 52 of the Act holds that acts committed outside the UK will be treated as committed here by persons resident in this country.
Carol Vorderman on corruption in this government
Matt Hancock too hasn’t had his collar felt by the Police – strange that
However the Police, Judges and Tory/Labour politicians are more concerned with the damage to Elbit’s factories from paint than the damage done to human beings. That is the ‘logic’ of capitalism.
Today our fundamental rights are under attack. People are being sent to prison just for using the terms “climate change” and “fuel poverty” in court and arrested for literally upholding the law concerning the right of juries to make decisions on their conscience.
In 1670, Bushel’s Case established the right of a jury to reach a verdict ‘according to their convictions.’ This allowed the acquittal of the protesters that toppled the statue of the slave trader, Edward Colston. Since then the Court of Appeal has withdrawn ‘lawful excuse’ from damage to property.
Palestine Action activists have been prevented from explaining their motives when on trial. Climate activists have also been prevented from discussing their motives in court. This undermining of the jury system is a huge attack on all of our rights.
Amy Pritchard & Giovanna Lewis who were both sentenced to imprisonment for daring to mention climate change
You can show solidarity with Tony Greenstein and the 3 other Elbit activists on Monday June 26 outside Wolverhampton court (10am)
[the date is still not finalised because probation reports haven’t yet been obtained on most of the defendants]
Come along to our Zoom meeting on Saturday June 24 at 6pm
to discuss the issues and how we can fight back. Register here:
Huda Ammori from Palestine Action, which protests against factories supplying arms to Israel
Kush Naker of Just Stop Oil
Tim Crosland, Director of PlanB, which links mobilisation and litigation to hold power to account for the climate catastrophe
Tony Greenstein, who is facing a custodial sentence and has been prevented from speaking out about his motives in court
Deepa Driver on the fight for justice for Julian Assange
· Cathy, Sally, Ollie arrested (28 April 23)
The Tolpuddle Martyrs also defied the law in order to form a union – unfortunately the TUC leaders don’t have a fraction of their courage today despite holding a Tolpuddle Festival each year
QUOTES FROM PROMINENT JUDGES, LAWYERS, AND SCHOLARS
Lord Patrick Devlin, a former Law Lord and legal scholar, said:
‘The first object of any tyrant in Whitehall would be to make Parliament utterly subservient to his will: and the next to overthrow or diminish trial by jury, for no tyrant could afford to leave a subject’s freedom in the hands of twelve of his countrymen. Trial by jury is more than one wheel of the constitution: it is the lamp that shows that freedom lives.’
As Marcel BerlinsandClare Dyer wrote
‘Lord Devlin, one of the great law lords, regarded the jury’s right to bring in a perverse acquittal as one of the glories of our jury system.’
“It gives protection against laws which the ordinary man regards as harsh and oppressive . . . an insurance that the criminal law will conform to the ordinary man’s ideas of what is fair and just. If it does not, the jury will not be a party to its enforcement.”
The BBC, Media and Politicians are always concerned about attacks on the right to protest in Hong Kong but never in Britain
Lord Justice Auld, a former Court of Appeal Judge said in 2001:
‘[Jury nullification] has been an accepted feature of our jury system for a long time and is seen as a useful long-stop against oppression by the State and as an agent, on occasion, of law reform.’
Melinda Janki, Guyana-based lawyer, and winner of the Commonwealth Rule of Law prize, 2023 said:
‘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.’
Revd Dr Sue Parfitt, a priest and retired psychotherapist, said:
‘It’s a serious matter indeed if a jury feels unable to make decisions according to their conscience, just as it confounds the basis for the law in this land when defendants are prevented from telling the whole truth in court. Both rights must be defended.’
John Adams, lawyer, a leader of the American Revolution and later 2nd President of the USA, 1771, said:
‘It is not only [the juror’s] right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.’
Oliver Wendell Holmes, US Supreme Court Justice, said in 1920:
‘the jury has the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both law and facts.’
E.P. Thompson, writer and historian, said in 1980:
‘The English common law rests upon a bargain between the Law and the People. The jury box is where people come into the court; the judge watches them and the jury watches back. A jury is the place where the bargain is struck. The jury attends in judgment, not only upon the accused, but also upon the justice and humanity of the law….’
Michael Randle, addressing the jury in his own defence said:
‘The judge, Judge McCowan, in his summing up to the jury virtually directed them to find Clive Ponting guilty. He told the jury that the interests of the State were synonymous with the policies of the State and these were determined by the government of the day. Ponting’s motives, he said were irrelevant. The jury should forget about any concept of moral duty. But the jury did not forget the concept of moral duty or were unwilling to accept the judge’s contention that the interests of the state were synonymous with the policies of the government. They brought in a verdict of Not Guilty. The lamp of freedom shone more brightly that day, and a dangerous shift towards arbitrary power was avoided. I appeal to you today to keep that lamp burnished and shining and to allow considerations of humanity and common sense to guide your judgement. I invite you to agree with us that what we did was right and to find us Not Guilty.’
Matt Hutchings KC, a leading Barrister from London, said:
‘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.’
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman from North London said:
‘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.’
Paul Stephens, 58, a former Police Officer, 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.’
These trials all took place in the full glare of publicity. Here we see a specific application of the principle of open justice: the public can attend court and scrutinise what is going on. They can see the jury make its protest as to what they see as an unjust law or unjust application of the law. There is a check against arbitrary or oppressive conduct by the court. Here the 17th century rationale lives on despite Caverno’s claim. We see as Professor Zander has properly pointed out the jury can set aside ‘unjust laws, oppressive prosecutions and harsh sentences.’
Law Lord Lord Hoffmann confirmed this in R v Jones (Margaret)  1 AC 161 (89) when he stated:
My Lords, civil disobedience on conscientious grounds has a long and honourable history in this country. People who break the law to affirm their belief in the injustice of a law or government action are sometimes vindicated by history. The suffragettes are an example which comes immediately to mind. It is the mark of a civilised community that it can accommodate protests and demonstrations of this kind.
Trudi Warner (3 March 23)
Save Our Juries
A new group Save our Juries has been set up, the purpose of which is to protect and defend the right to a fair trial through the power of collective action, as judges undermine it by concealing from juries their proper role
Save Our Juries will defend and protect the right to a fair trial and shine a spotlight on the repression that is taking place by:
1. Literally upholding the law on signs which explain a jury’s right to acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience
2. The power of silence and blank signs as a symbol of state repression.
More than 20 people have already been referred to the Attorney General for upholding the law on our signs. The more the state reacts against us the more it exposes to the public its violence and authoritarianism. If you want to take collective action against the Government’s programme of repression at this critical moment.
Just as the fossil fuel companies and others have for decades hidden the truth of the climate and ecological crises from the public to maintain their profits, the British judiciary now perpetuates the suppression of evidence through the courts, including by:
1. Banning those engaged in campaigns of political defiance from explaining their motivations and beliefs to the jury
2. Telling the jury that motives, even if articulated, are irrelevant and must be ignored
4. Banning references to a jury’s right to acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience
5. Arresting and referring for prosecution those who remind jurors of their right to make decisions on their conscience.
6. Directing the jury that defences such as necessity, proportionality or reasonable excuse are not available.
7. Limiting the time to present a defence to 15 minutes.
Jury trials are being turned into show trials, with the jury being used just to rubber-stamp the politicised directions of the judge.
Save Our Juries will campaign to protect & defend the right to trial by jury by nonviolent collective action.
The principle that juries can acquit a defendant on their conscience (“jury nullification”) has a long history. It was first established in 1670 when the Recorder of London tried to compel a jury to convict two Quaker preachers, William Penn and William Mead, for holding an unlawful assembly. Chief Justice Vaughan, of the Court of Common Pleas ruled that juries have the right to “give their verdict according to their convictions”. That ruling is celebrated with a marble plaque in the Old Bailey.
Because of that principle, the penalty of hanging for stealing sheep was abolished in this country because juries refused to convict people of that offence. After the passing of the Fugitive Slaves Act 1850, many US juries declined to convict those who had helped the enslaved to gain their freedom. In 1985, a British jury acquitted Clive Ponting for breach of the Official Secrets Act after he leaked a document which exposed the Government’s lies over the sinking of the Argentine ship, General Belgrano, with the loss of 368 lives, despite the judge’s direction that he had no defence in law.
The Jury is the “Achilles heel” in the Government’s programme of repression against those expressing defiance against its authoritarian policies. It only takes 3 out of 12 jurors to prevent a guilty verdict. If ordinary people are empowered to act on their conscience, as is their right, and presented with the relevant context, many will refuse to convict their fellow citizens who have been taking a stand against the corruption of the fossil fuel industry or those who are supplying arms with which to commit war crimes.
If juries routinely decline to convict, that’s not embarrasses the Government, it haemorrhages one of their primary sources of power, repression through the criminal courts. That’s why such extreme measures have been taken to bypass juries in conscience cases.
When Trudi Warner, a retired social worker held up a placard communicating the jury’s right to make decisions of conscience, she was arrested and sent to the Old Bailey. When 24 of us replicated her action in May outside Inner London Crown Court, Judge Reid referred us to the Attorney General for contempt of court. Those taking part included Quakers, health professionals, a priest, legal professionals and a retired police officer.
The Attorney General, the Government’s most senior legal adviser, now faces a dilemma. See The Times. She can either decline to prosecute, undermining the authority of the judges. Or she can prosecute us, in which case there will be more of us and the assault on trial by jury will be brought to national and international attention.
Save Our Juries is a natural point of intersection for diverse campaigns and movements, including anti-racism, peace and climate movements. Juries have acquitted those who toppled the statue of the slave-trader, Edward Colston, those attempting to block violent deportations, and those resisting climate breakdown and fuel poverty. Likewise a judge had recently ruled that those blocking the sale of drones to Israel which would be used to target Palestinians, could not explain their motivations to the jury and could not inform the jury of their right to acquit as a matter of conscience.
Save Our Juries reaches across political divides. When someone’s liberty is at stake, the right to a fair hearing and the right to trial by jury are fundamental even to a ‘conservative’ sense of British justice. Judge Reid’s actions have already been gathering support from some unlikely sources, see for example “Protesters must be allowed to explain motives in court”, The Times:
“Whether you sympathise with Insulate Britain or regard them as woke tofu-munchers, surely any defendant in a criminal trial is entitled to defend themselves when their liberty is at stake? … Banning all reference to motive also compromises the jury. Shouldn’t jurors be able to consider whether these protestors were acting out of conscience?”
Save Our Juries campaigns to prevent the suppression of evidence and the subversion of democracy (hence its support for the self-determination of peoples and the decolonisation of land, education and ecosystems). Initially, Save Our Juries will support the following collective actions:
1. Upholding the law on signs
Upholding the law on a sign outside court for an hour (e.g. between 9 and 10am) is a simple, accessible and powerful action. It presents the State with a deep dilemma. It must either:
i) criminalise people for literally upholding the law, exposing to public view its repressive nature; or
ii) permit jurors to be empowered by being informed of their right to acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience, risking a critical mass of jury acquittals.
A letter can be handed in to the presiding Judge, openly communicating the rationale for the action (such as the letter handed to Judge Reid by the 24 signholders in May).
2. The power of silence (and blank signs) as a symbol of oppression
Blank signs may be held outside courts where defendants are being prevented from explaining their motives and advancing a defence (blank signs being the international symbol of state repression).
Campaign launch: at Gail Bradbrook’s trial at Isleworth CC (Monday 17th July), and on Friday 21st July) at Isleworth, ILCC, Hove, and other Crown Courts
If you’re interested in joining a sign-holding action in July (or at some later date), please email us at [email protected]
There is a central working group of 5-6 people who have been working on the development of the campaign, action designs and the essential administration and care that allows people to take action.
Given the diversity of the movement, different groups engaging in the campaign will know best how to communicate with their communities. Quakers involved in the campaign, for example, have emphasised the role of Quakers in establishing the original precedent on the principle of jury nullification in 1670:
To join or support the campaign, please contact [email protected].
“Extinction Rebellion co-founder cleared of further charge in paint-throwing case” (Independent, 21 February, 2023)
“Insulate Britain activists cleared in court after M4 protest” (Bristol Post, 16 January 23)
“The government is undermining the idea of trial by jury after Colston Four verdict” (Independent, 20 April 22)
“Juries keep letting Extinction Rebellion off the hook — here’s why” (Evening Standard, 8 April 22)
“UK activists keep being acquitted by juries. What does that mean for protest?” Open Democracy, 22 January 22
“Grant Shapps slams Bristol jury for clearing Colston Four” (Daily Mail, 6 January 22)
“Jurors see the bigger picture: activists who were cleared in court”, (Guardian, 6 January 22)
“Jury acquits Extinction Rebellion protesters despite ‘no defence in law’” (Guardian, 23 April 21)
“Extinction Rebellion founder cleared of vandalism in landmark case after arguing climate change justification” (Independent, 10 May 2019)
“Climate activists risk contempt charges over placards outside court” (The Times, 2 June 23)
alleged contempt of court” (Press release, 2 June 23)
“Judges join lawyers in the bear pit” (Law Society Gazette, 23 May 23)
“Climate activists call crown court judge ‘unprincipled bully’ during protest” (Independent, 15 May 23)
“Protesters must be allowed to explain motives in court” (The Times, 13 March 23)
“Insulate Britain activist jailed for eight weeks for contempt of court” (Guardian, 7 February 23)
“Activists jailed for seven weeks for defying ban on mentioning climate crisis” (Open Democracy, 3 March 23)
“Climate activist who allegedly held sign directed at jurors may be charged” (Guardian, 4 April 23)
“‘Not only a right, but a duty’: A history of perverse verdicts” (Justice Gap)
“Jury Nullification: The Short History of a Little Understood Power” (Midlands Historical Review)
School syllabus (Penn and Mead)
The Auld Review, September 2001, Juries, paras. 99ff
“Lawyers For Israel Oppose Conscience”, Craig Murray, 20 May 23
Jury Nullification (Wikipedia)