The Public Order Act 2023 which Starmer Supported is Intended to Criminalise All Effective Protest
Brighton & Hove Protest in Support of Palestine Action Prisoners
As people may know I together with 3 other Defendants am awaiting sentence after having been convicted of ‘intent to cause criminal damage without lawful excuse’ to the Shenstone Elbit factory of Israeli arms factory, Elbit.
The Judge ruled out all lawful excuses holding that there were no lawful excuses, thus leading inevitably to our convictions.
All five Defendants in the Elbit 5 Trial, including one whom the jury was deadlocked on, have issued the following statement:
When Justice is Neither Done Nor Seen to be Done
Statement from the Elbit 5
On March 9 2021 we were arrested by the Police before we could reach Elbit’s Shenstone factory where some of us intended to occupy the roof and decorate the factory with paint in the blood red colour of the victims of its drones. Elbit is an Israeli arms company.
On May 15 2023, after a 7 week trial, we were found guilty of intent to cause criminal damage without lawful excuse. Judge Michael Chambers refused to admit all lawful excuse defences under s.3 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 or let us explain why it was that we had targeted Elbit. The jury was therefore left with the impression that our only purpose was to commit criminal damage.
At no point was the jury told that they have the right to reach a verdict based on whether it was unjust to convict and whether or not the use of the CDA in this case was oppressive. This is despite it being a longstanding feature of British jurisprudence since Bushell’s case in 1670, that a jury has the right to reach a verdict according to their conscience.
Patrick Devlin, a former Law Lord said that the right to bring in ‘perverse acquittals’ 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.
Similarly Heather Hallett, a member of the Court of Appeal from 2005 to 2019 and who is now chairing the COVID Inquiry, said in her 2017 Blackstone lecture on the Role of the Jury, A jury may refuse to convict in spite of the law and the evidence because it concludes that the law is an unjust law. The jury passes its verdict on the law. Secondly, it ensures that the prosecution and the judge are on trial….
Israel’s recent attack on Jenin where 12 Palestinians, including 4 children, were killed is precisely why we targeted Elbit. We should have been allowed to use the defence of necessity whereby it is permissible to commit a smaller crime in order to prevent a far greater ill. However the courts have decided that the victims of Elbit’s drones are too ‘remote’ from Elbit’s factories in this country.
The ‘logic’ that was employed in our trial was that in order to avail ourselves of this defence it was necessary to identify the particular engine in the particular drone that killed the particular child. We believe that this is merely playing with words whilst people are dying. In practice it enables Elbit to avoid responsibility for the death of hundreds if not thousands of civilian victims, including children and allows it to evade legislation on the prevention of war crimes. Elbit are merchants of death plying their lethal trade with the protection of the law.
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers in a statement calling for the release of Palestinian Action prisoners noted how, on 21 June 2023, an Elbit drone extrajudicially assassinated three Palestinians in Jenin. This was a war crime as was the attack on Jenin where thousands of people were evicted from their homes and forced to wander the streets without food, water or shelter.
The International Criminal Court Act 2001 make the commission of war crimes by British nationals or residents, or being ancillary to war crimes, be they in this country or abroad, an offence. It would seem obvious that actions intended to prevent the production of Elbit Drones in this country must be lawful in so far as such actions are intended to prevent the commission of far greater crimes.
In the eyes of our judiciary, criminal damage against Elbit factories is more serious than the enabling of war crimes.
We are at the moment awaiting sentence and have been remanded for reports. HHJ Chambers has stated that our offences ‘cross the custody threshold’. The date of sentencing was originally intended to be on June 26. It was then postponed to July 10 and then August 11. The latest date is September 1 and we understand that it may be postponed again.
This continual delay in sentence is in itself a form of punishment as a cloud of uncertainty hangs over all of us. One of us lost his job due to the conviction imposed and finding other means of employment will be extremely difficult while there is no closure. Overall, this case has been hanging over us for more than two years and now it is being delayed again for reasons that we have not been given but which we understand to relate to the inability of the court to agree a date with our barristers.”
We have therefore decided to issue this statement in order that people who have been following the trials and prosecution, some would say persecution, of Palestine Action activists, are made aware of what is happening in this case.
Helen Caney (not convicted)
Mike Lynch White (centre), cofounder of Scientist Rebellion was sentenced to 27 months in prison at Chester Crown Court
I seem to recall a saying that Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. This was first coined by Sir Edward Coke, the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobin periods, who was variously Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas and King’s Bench as well as Attorney General.
In the Case of Proclamations and Dr. Bonham’s Case, Coke declared the King to be subject to the law, and the laws of Parliament to be void if in violation of “common right and reason”. Cases which foreshadowed Bushel’s Case of 1670 where a jury decided not to enforce a tyrannical statute.
A week ago, Saturday 22 July, was Prisoners’ Day of Action. There are currently 7 supporters of Palestine Action in prison for taking action to disrupt the production of Israeli weapons on British soil.
Four of them are detained after dismantling American weapons factory, Teledyne Labtech in Wales. Teledyne are the largest listed exporters of weapons from Britain to the Apartheid State of Israel. Two others are in prison for occupying APPH, a Canadian weapons factory, and supplier of parts for Israeli Elbit drones and fighter jets.
Over 100 more face trials for taking direct action against a range of weapons companies, mainly Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons firm. Elbit supply the majority of Israel’s military drone fleet, land equipment and munitions. Their weapons are used against the Palestinian people, and then marketed as “battle-tested” and sold on to other oppressive regimes across the world. Using the captive population of Gaza as a laboratory is a crime against humanity. All strikes against that industry are not only legitimate but essential.
The British State’s complicity with the colonisation of Palestine goes back all the way to the Balfour Declaration when, in the words of Arthur Koestler ‘“One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.”
Palestine Action to date have shut down two Israeli weapons factories and cost Elbit hundreds of million pounds in lost contracts. By imprisoning activists, the British state is demonstrating that it prioritises protecting the military supply chain of a foreign apartheid state over the freedom of its own citizens.
In addition to handing down prison sentences, the State has imprisoned activists without trial and on occasions the Crown Prosecution Service have reintroduced previously dropped charges, after Elbit asked for a review. In reaction to both growing public support for direct action and the number of ‘perverse acquittals’ by juries, especially the Colston acquittals the Court of Appeal ruled, on reference from the Attorney General, that ‘lawful excuse’ defences such as Necessity (preventing a greater crime) and Human Rights defences of proportionality did not apply to cases of criminal damage.
For further information see Palestine Action Prisoners Day of Action on Saturday 22nd July
Almost 80 public figures, including members of the European Parliament, screenwriters, lecturers, musicians, writers and journalists, have signed an open letter calling on the UK to release detained Palestine Action protesters who “sacrificed their liberty to challenge colonial violence”.
The protesters were arrested while obstructing the entrances to several sites belonging to Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems, in the UK. Elbit, the letter says, manufactures “an array of weaponry, including drones equipped with payloads”, and “profit from the captive population of Palestine — they have turned civilians into a human laboratory where experimental weaponry can be tested, improved on, and then marketed as “field-proven” and branded as “battle-tested” surveillance technology and components for tanks and fighter jets.”
We demand the charges are dropped against those already incarcerated and at risk of prison over their work to disrupt the criminal production of Israeli weapons on British soil.
We stand with those who have sacrificed their liberty to challenge colonial violence and we call on others to do the same until they, and the Palestinian people, are free.
Palestine Action demo outside Newcastle Crown Court
Steps taken by Palestine Action, the letter continued,
have resulted in the closing down of two of Elbit’s sites, and the loss of millions of pounds through the severance of MoD contracts. Palestine Action has inspired local communities across the country to rise up against these immoral factories which profit from the business of war and destruction.
In spite of this, the UK government has decided to prioritise its interests in protecting the military supply chain of a foreign apartheid state by incarcerating its own people.
The heroes who have taken courageous action to expose and dismantle Britain’s role in the colonisation of Palestine should be celebrated and rewarded, not imprisoned. We therefore call for the release of all Palestine Action political prisoners, and for the charges to be dropped.
Signatories to the letter also include British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi, lawyer and winner of the Palestine Book Award 2019 Academic Award, Professor Noura Erakat, and 2020 Creative Award Winner Susan Abulhawa, in addition to CAGE Director Moazzam Begg, MEPs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly and academic David Miller, who was fired from Bristol University following a campaign by the Israel lobby over his criticism of the Zionist state.
Here is the full statement calling for the release of Palestine Action prisoners
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