In 2017, climate activists Roger Hallam and David Durant painted the words "divest from oil and gas" on a wall at King's College London in chalk paint; they were facing £7,000 in fines and up to 18 months in prison, and did not qualify for a legal aid lawyer.
The pair represented themselves in front of a jury at Southwark Crown Court in London, arguing the rarely used "necessity defense," that their actions were justified by the urgency of climate change. During the trial, Judge Michael Gledhill QC frequently interrupted the pair to instruct the jury to ignore the defense, telling them that climate change was "irrelevant" to the charge.
Despite this, the jury exonerated the pair after deliberating for just two hours, the mandatory minimum for such a deliberation.
Recently, more than 1000 activists from Extinction Rebellion were arrested in the UK following a week of climate-change-related civil disobedience (Extinction Rebellion has also put forward a slate of independent UK candidates for the upcoming European Parliamentary Elections, and I have instructed my proxy voter to cast my ballot for them).
"We were shut down quite a lot," Durant said. "We'd try to read out case law and we were shut down." He said he and Hallam snuck climate arguments into their defense and were helped when the prosecution showed clips of their filmed divestment campaign. "That was really handy," he said. "That was making the case for us."
Durant, 25, said the 2017 campaign was successful because King's College London subsequently announced it would divest £14 million from fossil fuels and pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025. "Now I've won this court case it feels like I've won again," he said.
Climate Activists Win Necessity Defense Case in London
[Isabella Kaminski/Climate Liability News]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: James Ennis, CC-BY)