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With Trudi Warner facing up to two years in jail for holding a sign, over 200 people have turned up at courts around England with the same banner.
A legal principle dating back to 1670 has rung out across England, as hundreds have stood outside courts with signs proclaiming the independence of juries – in protest at the Solicitor General.
Last week, the Solicitor General, Government Minister Michael Tomlinson KC, launched proceedings against the retired social worker Trudi Warner, which could result in a prison sentence of up to two years.
Trudi had stood outside a London court, where climate campaigners were on trial, holding a placard that read: “Jurors: you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”
This legal principle was established more than 300 years ago, after a judge imprisoned a jury for reaching a verdict he would not accept. But Judge Silas Reid, who has recently presided over many protest trials, ordered Warner to appear at the Old Bailey for “contempt in the face of the court attempting to influence the jury” – even though a plaque at the entrance to that building declares the same legal right.
Now demonstrators have held up signs displaying the same text outside courts in London, Bristol, Manchester and Cornwall in protest at Tomlinson’s decision and the Government’s wider campaign to crack down on freedoms of assembly and expression – policies branded by the UN as deeply troubling.
A biologist, Dr Abi Perrin, held up her sign outside the Old Bailey.
“In 2023, telling the truth is being treated as a criminal act,” Perrin said, “with people prosecuted for displaying facts in public… I am deeply afraid of a world where truth, science and morality are not important, or where we are not free to fight for them.”
Good Law Project is working with a specialist lawyer to push back against authoritarian new restrictions around protest rights. Thanks to our generous supporters, we are helping to fund two protesters whose defence was blocked by the court. We’re also exploring new ways we can widen the public space for protest – a fundamental pillar of our democracy and a crucial freedom in the face of the climate crisis.