Stroud-based campaigner and Green Party member Val Saunders will be among the speakers at an online discussion about the government’s repressive attempts to undermine the independence of juries.
The event, on Wednesday October 11 from 7.30 to 9pm, will describe how courts are restricting defendants from explaining their motivations, disallowing relevant evidence and stopping juries from using their right to reach verdicts based on their conscience.
The clampdown follows acquittals by juries of various political and climate activists over the past few years (see footnote).
Elizabeth Lee, event coordinator, said: “It is deeply worrying that the government is ramping up a programme of repression against all those who take nonviolent direct action to expose its criminality and corruption.
“Jury trial is supremely important to the British public, and it would be politically impossible for the government to remove it. So instead, the courts have surreptitiously sought to undermine the powers of juries. Our event will hear from people with personal knowledge of this repression.”
In particular the courts are:
- Banning those engaged in campaigns of political resistance from explaining their motivations and beliefs to the jury;
- Disallowing or ignoring relevant evidence and witnesses (including expert testimony as to the Government’s failure to act on the scientific advice);
- Telling the jury that motives, even if articulated, are irrelevant and must be ignored;
- Sending people to prison just for using the terms “climate change” and “fuel poverty” in court;
- Banning references to a jury’s right to acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience;
- Arresting and referring for prosecution those who remind jurors of their right to make decisions on their conscience;
- Directing the jury that defences such as necessity, proportionality or reasonable excuse are not available;
- Limiting the time to present a defence to 15 minutes.
To register to attend the event, or to receive a recording to watch another time, click here.
The speakers will be:
- Val Saunders and Andy Williams, Extinction Rebellion activists
- Jonathan Fuller, environmental and civil liberties campaigner
- Dr Tim Hewlett, Scientist Rebellion
Val Saunders is one of four Stroud residents who recently wrote to the Solicitor General inviting him to arrest them, to raise awareness of the threat to the principle of trial by jury.
This follows the arrest for contempt of court of a protester who held up a sign outside a court that read ‘Jurors, you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience’.
The Stroud four told the Solicitor General that they should be arrested for contempt of court too, after holding up similar signs outside courts.
Val is an illustrator, cartoonist and art tutor who has made banners for HS2 and XR protests.
Andy Williams joined XR very near the beginning and got arrested on Waterloo Bridge on the first day of the April 2019 rebellion. Later that year he helped to set up a local XR samba band, which plays at most of the big XR events – he’s been arrested several times.
He joined Insulate Britain late in their campaign, and did a major action with them. This led to his arrest and a charge of public nuisance. He pleaded not guilty and opted for trial by jury, attending most of two early week-long trials at the Inner London Crown Court, and writing copious notes to help him and others to prepare their own cases.
Andy was due to appear in March this year, but came down with ‘flu so it’s been postponed to January next year. He wrote an academic peer-reviewed paper on insulation and heat pumps, which he had hoped to use in evidence before learning that they wouldn’t even be allowed to utter the word “insulation”. He’s lately been doing some slow marches with Just Stop Oil.
Jon Fuller has been an environmental campaigner for 45 years. He was in the roads protest movement in the 1980s and ran the Speedlimit campaign in the 1990s, which resulted in government agreeing to dramatically reduce child pedestrian fatalities on UK roads.
He also campaigned against expansion of Southend Airport, ran the ‘No Estuary Airport Campaign’ in Essex, led the successful FoE campaigns for the construction of wind farms in The Dengie Peninsula in Essex, and stood for the Green Party in Southend West Constituency in May 2015.
Jon is a speaker for XR, was arrested twice at XR actions, provides specialist ‘Tell The Truth’ advice to the radical climate movement on media coverage of the CEE and leads work on the Climate Genocide Act Now group, which is using international criminal law in the context of climate breakdown.
Jon’s work can be seen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JNFClimate
Dr Tim Hewlett is co-founder of Scientist Rebellion, the climate activist group with 1000+ scientists and academics across 32 countries whose members wear lab coats during acts of civil resistance. The organisation’s members range from science students and professors to IPCC contributors and leading climate-related scientists. Its guiding principle is that scientists’ warnings about the climate crisis will not be taken seriously unless they are willing to act disruptively.
In February 2023 Tim and co-founder Mike Lynch-White were found not guilty at Southwark Crown Court of criminal damage for a non-violent September 2020 protest action at the Royal Society in London. The action – which saw paint daubed over the entrance to the Royal Society – inspired more than 2,000 scientists worldwide to join Scientist Rebellion.
In a second case heard by the same jury, Tim was found guilty of criminal damage for participating in an April 2022 protest at the Shell headquarters in London.
Acquittals by juries in the past few years have included people who have:
- toppled the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour;
- defaced Shell’s HQ;
- blocked the M4 to demand action on the climate crisis and fuel poverty;
- targeted Elbit, which manufactures the drones used to kill Palestinians;
- intervened to prevent violent deportations to Jamaica.