Six Extinction Rebellion activists have been acquitted in a landmark verdict at Southwark Crown Court this afternoon.
The jury delivered its not guilty verdict for each defendant, despite Judge Perrins ruling that five of the six had no defence under the law.
The trial, for criminal damage to the Shell HQ building in Waterloo in April 2019, could have led to a maximum five year prison sentence and/or a £10k fine.
During the protest – which lasted over 24 hours – activists poured fake oil, glued themselves to the windows and blocked doors.
They cracked several windows, climbed onto the entrance canopy, dropped banners and painted the exterior with ‘Shell Knew’, ‘Climate Criminals’ and ‘Lies’.
This is XR’s second case to be heard before a jury and the verdict is being hailed as a major victory for climate campaigners everywhere facing increasing criminalisation.
Defendant Simon Bramwell, 49, cofounder of Extinction Rebellion, said: “It is a significant victory for the truth of these times, when despite the letter of the law, jurors can clearly see that a broken window is a just response to a breaking world.”
“How fitting that this comes after Earth Day and the two year anniversary of the death of environmental lawyer Polly Higgins, founder of the Stop Ecocide campaign, to whom we dedicated our non violent direct action against Shell.
“With today’s verdict, it is clear who the real climate criminals are in the climate and ecological emergency. ‘Shell knew’ as we wrote.”
The six defendants – Jane Augsburger 55, Senan Clifford – 60, David Lambert – 62, Sid Saunders 41 and Extinction Rebellion co-founders Ian Bray, 53 and Simon Bramwell, 49 – were charged with over £25k criminal damage during an action at the Shell building on the first day of XR’s 2019 April Rebellion.
Katerina Hasapopoulous, 43, who also took part in the action, pleaded guilty on April 12 as the trial began, as she is breastfeeding – and home educates her three daughters.
In his own summing up, Judge Perrins told the jury it was rare for defendants to accept what they did, but still plead ‘not guilty’.
“This is a highly unusual case,” he said.
“As I have said already, this is a court of law, it is not a court of morals.”
“I have given you clear direction on what the law is and your duty to apply that law to the facts as you find them to be.”
He went on to remind them of the oath they had taken to “reach true verdicts according to the evidence”.
Adding: “Those are not mere empty words. A true verdict is one that is reached having all due regard to the law. That is how our jury system works and that is what you all pledged to do.”
Senan Clifford, a 60 year old former teacher now working as a carpenter, told the jury in his closing statement: “I was highlighting who are the real criminals here, the consequences of thirty years of missed opportunities.”
“Shell is legally allowed to destroy the planet.
“I acted for my children, grandchildren, all the children – they look to us adults not doing anything.
“The science says we have no time to waste, there is no time for the law to catch up. Every day we don’t act drives us into a future we do not want.”
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