Guy Williams thinks it ‘beggars belief’ that a jury found six Extinction Rebellion protesters not guilty of criminal damage at the Shell building (‘Climate Action,’ Letters 5 May 2021). As one of the defendants, I was present throughout the trial and I must correct his statement that the jury was ‘slated’ by the judge.
On the contrary, the judge was deeply respectful towards the jury throughout and thanked them after their verdict. It would have been improper for him to ‘clearly disagree’ as Mr Williams guesses. The judge advises the jury on the law; the jury alone decides the verdict and they are bound to do that based on the evidence.
The jury system is at the heart of British common law: one ordinary person explaining their actions to twelve other ordinary people.
The jury in Southwark was a random selection of local residents and Mr Williams is completely wrong to imply they were ‘making a mockery of the justice system’. They were not crusties or extremists; on the contrary they were twelve normal people who took their responsibility very seriously.
Sceptics need to acknowledge that when the climate emergency is described truthfully and carefully, people will listen.
They will share the sense of grief and dread about our children’s future which led my co-defendants and me to act as we did. In their verdict, the jury fully understood there was no defence in law but chose to take account of considerations other than the law, namely the extraordinary circumstances of the climate and ecological emergency.
Their oath was to deliver a true verdict according to ‘all the evidence’, and that is what they did.
The present laws are failing to protect us, and our leaders are failing to act: Now we need the law and the government to catch up with what the people already know.