The acquittal of three extirpated rebel activists who stopped a crowded train in central London is part of a “growing pattern” of a jury taking climate change more seriously than the government, claimed by their lawyer.
Reverend Sue Parfitt, 79, Father Martin Newell, 54, and former university lecturer Philip Kingston, 85, on Friday became the latest protesters to be acquitted for protesting on public transport.
The Inner London Crown Court jury unanimously approved all three for obstructing railways after their protest at Shadwell station on October 17, 2019.
There is mounting evidence from the courts – and especially from the jury – that the public is taking the climate crisis and there is an urgent need to focus more seriously on it than government and business
Mr Kingston sticks his hand to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train, while the Rev Parfitt and Father Newell climb onto the roof and pray for the planet.
The Rev Parfitt called Friday’s acquittal a “verification” of his action, though a Tory MP called the protest “selfish” and said the jury system needed to be reviewed.
Mike Schwarz, solicitor for the law firm Hodge Jones and Allen, which represented the defendants, said: “There is mounting evidence—from courts—and especially from juries—that the public is taking the climate crisis and the increasingly urgent need to focus on It has been taken on this much more seriously than the government and business. This decision is part of this growing pattern.”
This outrageous decision has given a green signal to those willing to commit all kinds of heinous crimes in the name of religion to justify their extreme political ideologies.
Conservative MP Brendan Clark-Smith criticized the decision, calling it “the green light to those willing to commit all kinds of horrific crimes”.
The Bassetlaw MP said: “The selfish actions and arrogance of these individuals prevented people from working to prevent their families, children from going to school, wasted the time of our emergency services, and put people’s lives at risk. I don’t see it as being exclusively Christian.
“While I will always defend the jury system, it clearly needs review, and this outrageous decision gave people the green light to commit all kinds of horrific crimes in the name of religion to justify their extreme political ideologies. Is.”
Summarizing Thursday, Judge Silas Reid asked the jury to decide whether the defendants’ actions and the disruptions they caused were “proportional” with their right to protest.
He reminded jurors that the motivation of the protesters was not relevant to whether they were guilty of causing disproportionate disruption to the public, nor to the sincerity of their belief in what they were doing.
Judge Reid told the court: “Deliberate disruptive action, even one that has more than a minimal impact on the rights of other people, does not need to be punished.
“It is all a matter of fact and degree. This requires balancing the rights of defendants to speak and protest, as the rights and freedoms of other people are being inhibited from going about their daily business and to prevent disorder and secure public safety. There is importance and necessity in the society. ,
Speaking outside the court on Friday, Reverend Parfitt told the PA news agency he thought the verdict showed the protest was the “right thing to do.”
She said: “It’s amazing that the jury saw the bigger picture, that the court justified our action, and we hope that this, in some small way, inspires others to realize that sacrifices can be made.” , especially by people of faith.
“We have to do everything possible to enable people on this earth to change direction so that we can live differently and we can live better.
“We are in an extreme and serious emergency, both for our civilization and our human and non-human species on the planet, and we have to take action from the governments of the world.”
Father Newell said he was prepared for further action and would risk going to jail in the future.
He told the PA: “I’m not sure if disrupting public transport is the right thing to do at this time, but would I risk going to jail? Absolutely.”
Mr Kingston, the third defendant acquitted on Friday, appeared in court via video link.
All three said they were greatly inspired by their Christian faith, while Mr Kingston said the future of his four grandchildren also inspired him to take part in the protest.
In what he said was an attempt to appeal to the public and government about the dangers of climate change and the actions of financial institutions that harm the planet, he targeted a train one stop away from a bank in the City of London financial district. Did.
Some 15 trains were delayed or canceled but none got stuck in the tunnels.
This was partly because, according to activists, they had planned the demonstration to ensure that there was no threat to public safety by taking certain measures, including targeting a station above ground and a platform to ensure violence. But 10 more extirpated rebel activists are involved. erupt
Rev Parfitt after being found guilty by a district judge at the City of London Magistrates’ Court in February 2020 for refusing to comply with a police ban order preventing protesters from demonstrating at Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge in London in April 2019 He vowed to continue the protest.
The verdict comes days after four men were cleared of criminal damages over a statue of slave trader Edward Colston, which was later dumped in port in Bristol.
The 17th-century bronze monument was pulled down on 7 June 2020 during a Black Lives Matter protest in the city, for which those responsible were taken over on 5 January after an 11-day trial at Bristol Crown Court.
Last year saw a string of sentencing in the Old Bailey, where a judge urged the Crown Prosecution Service to review its response to protesters’ appeals against convicts for obstructing a highway in light of a Supreme Court ruling in June Did.
Judge Mark Dennis QC said in August that there was a “fundamental problem”, saying the Crown had not properly “understood” the ruling or a “basic human rights point that has been around for too long”.
The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of four protesters—Christopher Cole, Henrietta Cullinan, Joanna Frau and Nora Ziegler—who were accused of obstructing a highway in 2017 after locking themselves together outside an arms fair .
In their decision, Lord Hamblen and Lord Stephens said: “There must be some degree of tolerance for disruption of normal life, including the right to freedom of expression or the freedom of peaceful assembly caused by traffic disruption.”
And in April last year, six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters, despite a judge telling jurors at Southwark Crown Court they had no defense at law. .
Earlier on Friday, six activists who blocked a motorway were released from prison as part of a series of protests by Extinction Rebellion offshoot Insulate Britain.
And former Paralympic athlete James Brown, who was sentenced to 12 months in prison after superglueing himself to the roof of a British Airways plane at London City Airport to draw attention to the climate crisis, has his sentence upheld by appeal. Was cut off for four months. judges.