Six defendants protesting against government inaction about climate change have been found not guilty by a jury, who found that a conviction would not be a proportionate interference with their right to protest.
Henry Blaxland QC and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers represented defendants Ruth Jarman Ian Bray, Phil Kingston & Nicholas Cooper, instructed by Mike Schwarz (HJA). Audrey Cherryl Mogan represented defendant Richard Barnard instructed by Lydia Dagostino (Kellys). Henry and Audrey are both members of the Garden Court Chambers Protest Team.
In the first Crown Court case since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Ziegler, the decision of whether a conviction would be a disproportionate interference with a defendant’s rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights – namely the right to protest, has been left for a jury to decide.
The much-publicised non-violent action fell within the two weeks of environmental protests organised by Extinction Rebellion in April 2019. The six protestors climbed onto the DLR train at Canary Wharf and remained there for two hours, holding banners that read “Don’t Jail the Canaries” and “Business as Usual=Death”. The defendants were subsequently arrested and charged with an offence of obstructing an engine or carriage using a railway, contrary to s.36 of the Malicious Damages Act 1861.
In Ziegler, the Supreme Court ruled that deliberately obstructive protest on the highway retains the protection of Articles 10 and 11. Even when a protest blocks the passage of others, the assessment of proportionality remains a fact-specific and evidence-based assessment.
After days of detailed legal argument, this fact-specific inquiry was left to a jury of their peers – the first case of its kind. They were unanimously acquitted today, International Human Rights Day.