On Monday 17 July, a group of approximately 20 people will risk prison by holding signs outside Isleworth Crown Court. Their signs communicate the centuries-old right of all jurors in British courtrooms to acquit a defendant according to their conscience and irrespective of the directions of the judge.
The show of resistance from the group (which includes Quakers, doctors, athletes, professors and a former government lawyer) comes amid mounting concern that jury trials for peaceful people holding the government to account through acts of nonviolent civil resistance are being turned into show trials, after a succession of jury acquittals have embarrassed ministers and politicians.
Among others, in April 2021 a jury acquitted 6 of Shell 7. In January 2022 a jury acquitted the Colston 4, who toppled a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour. In November 2022 a jury acquitted members of Palestine Action for targeting the arms manufacturer, Elbit, which makes drones used to kill Palestinians. In January 2023 a jury acquitted Insulate Britain campaigners after an M4 roadblock. In February 2023 a jury acquitted Burning Pink campaigners who had splashed pink paint over Conservative, Labour and Green Party HQs. In June 23 a jury acquitted the Brook House 3, who disrupted deportations to Jamaica, after the defendants shared it was their duty to resist violent and racist Government policies. 
Given the importance of trial by jury to the British public, which is the British Justice system’s primary safeguard against the abuse of state power, it would be politically impossible for the Government to abolish it. Instead measures have been taken by Judges and lawmakers to render the role of jurors substantially meaningless, while preserving the appearance of jury trial, such as:
- Banning those engaged in campaigns of political and civil resistance from explaining their motivations or the context for their actions to the jury
- Disallowing or ignoring relevant evidence and witnesses (including expert testimony detailing the Government’s failure to act on such advice)
- Judges directing the jury that a defendant’s motives, even if articulated, are irrelevant in law 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 relevant.
The principle that juries can acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience has been enshrined in British Law since 1670. When sheep stealing was punishable with execution, juries refused to convict ordinary people, compelling a change in the law. When Clive Ponting exposed the Government’s lies about the sinking of the General Belgrano in 1982, at the cost of 323 lives, the jury acquitted him of breach of the Official Secrets Act, despite the judge’s direction that he had no defence. The principle, often referred to as jury nullification, is taught to our children in schools and is literally set in marble on display in the original entrance to the Old Bailey. 
The people sitting quietly with signs outside Isleworth Crown Court on Monday are prepared to risk arrest and even prison time. As the campaign of civil resistance inside and outside of British courtrooms grows and builds, some of those who have already been part of previous events have been told their cases have been referred to the Attorney General for review and the Attorney General has this week given a clear indication she plans to prosecute the cases. 
In 2023 we have leaders, politicians and judges in the UK who are prepared to imprison people for literally upholding the law.
Melinda Janki, Guyana-based lawyer, and winner of the Commonwealth Rule of Law prize, 2023 said:
“For decades ExxonMobil suppressed evidence that burning fossil fuels would destroy the global climate system. Today we in the Global South are living with the impacts. People are dying. Animals are dying. It is unconscionable and contrary to the rule of law for any judge to seek to suppress evidence of the destructive impacts of fossil fuels.”
The five people quoted below are sign holders who will be present outside Isleworth Crown Court on Monday 17th July.
El Litten, 36, a Web Developer from Luton said;
“I’m doing this because it’s so important that the legal system does not stop people from telling the whole truth in court, and does not stop jurors from making the decision they think is right when they have all the information. Our society often seems to allows those in power to lie with impunity, but the truth – the whole truth – ought to matter. At times like these, it is more important than ever that rights which have been enshrined in law for hundreds of years are not abandoned.”
Dr Katharine Fallon, 60, a retired GP from Windsford in Cheshire said;
“I am a mum of two, and a retired GP. We know that around 2,000 people died in the UK last July due to extreme heat. In Europe last year, over 60,000 died from heat related illness. Jurors need to hear the truth that rising CO2 emissions cause these heatwaves. When making decisions about defendants who have acted in nonviolent civil resistance to protect everyone, they need to hear defendants explaining why they acted as they did.”
Laura Clarke, 70, a retired social worker from Southend-on-Sea said;
“The right to a fair trial is fundamental to any civilised society. It ensures that the actions of ordinary people are judged by their peers who make up the jury. But juries must have a full understanding of mitigating circumstances in order to understand then make their considered decision. We are in danger of losing our right to a fair trial.”
David Lambert, 64, a historian from Stroud, said;
“I am here because the principle of a trial by our peers is fundamental to English common law. A defendant has the right to say who they are, what they did and why they did it. A jury has a right to hear the whole truth. Judges attempting to curtail those rights is a shocking abuse of power and must be resisted, peacefully and resolutely.”
Mary Light, 78, a retired nurse from Totnes in Devon said;
“I am a retired nurse, and a grandmother. I simply cannot ignore this issue – men and women on trial for peaceful civil resistance being forbidden by the judge to explain their motives.
At the beginning of a trial the defendants swear “I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. The new limitations mean they CANNOT provide ‘the whole truth’.”
Press contact: 07901674715
Email: [email protected]
Images and video available here:
Notes to Editors
 David Nixon jailed: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/feb/07/insulate-britain-activist-david-nixon-jailed-for-eight-weeks-for-contempt-of-court
Amy Pritchard and Giovanna Lewis jailed: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/activists-jailed-for-seven-weeks-for-defying-ban-on-mentioning-climate-crisis/
 Principle of Jury Nullification: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification
 Trudi Warner summoned to the Old Bailey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=G1CZteBxvaU
 Cathy Eastburn, Sally Davidson and Oliver Rock arrested: https://youtu.be/GQxVU_JlB0E
 Signholders at Inner London Crown Court in May 2023: http://insulatebritain.com/2023/05/15/breaking-high-noon-at-crown-court/