Monday, July 06, 2009

drax guilty : what's next

The Drax defendants were found guilty. They will be sentenced in September, but the judge has said they will not face imprisonment.

Courts, like the police, are an executive arm of the powers being opposed, so of course we didn't get justice from them. Certainly we get the occasional happy anomaly, and that's almost always when the decision comes from a jury, ie people who are not part of the legal system.

Like politicians, the legal system has to nod towards fairness but we all know where the power lies. If you think your word means as much to a politician as that of a FTSE100 director you're deluded.

By the same token, a court is inevitably going to be heavily biased toward the state of which it is a part. People on trial for attacking that state, or the preferences of those who run it, are not going to get a fair hearing.

About ten years ago there was a short wave of 'accountable actions' in the peace and anti-GM movements. People felt as if ensuring they were caught and then presenting a bold and just defence of their actions to a court was worthwhile.

The flaw was in presuming that the world is listening to what gets said in courts, or that courts are in some way fair arbiters.

It led to a lot of needless convictions. Thank fuck for the anti-GM people who ensured they didn't get collared and went out night after night trashing the crops.

None of this is in any way a criticism of the Drax defendants, for whom I have nothing but praise. They did not do the action to prove anything to a court, they did it as genuine direct action, to stop something that needed stopping. And they did it knowing they would pull a spotlight on to Drax, coal and climate change.

It inevitably led to a court case, but in being unafraid of the state's response they were acting with bravery. That in itself was a statement on the seriousness of the issue, and an inspiring stance to others.

They fought their case as best they could, put effort into a defence they should've (and reasonably expected they would have) been allowed to run.

We should be dismayed by the verdict, but not surprised. It's what we should expect from courts. Yes, we should minimise their impact on us, and present the best defence we can to that end. But the focus should be - as it surely was with the Drax protesters - to save the bulk of our energy on action and our arguments for those who give a shit.

There's the Climate Camp in London from 27 August-2 September, and a global day of climate action on 24 October. Make it count.


Martin Porter said...

They were morally in the right but legally in the wrong: like blocking a road, obstructing a train is a crime with no 'just cause' defence.

I wouldn't say actions like these aren't worth doing, but if you want an aquital you need to design the action differently.

As direct action goes though, this was pretty direct, so well done to them.

merrick said...


obstructing a train is a crime with no 'just cause' defence

Yes and no. There is a defence of necessity allowed in some cases - that is to say, a crime was commited to prevent a greater crime - and it's up to the judge in the pre-trial hearings to decide whether it applies or not.

I wouldn't say actions like these aren't worth doing, but if you want an aquital you need to design the action differently.

Absolutely. And frankly, full marks to the Drax people for prioritising action over acquittal.

That said, they did do some great preliminary work, a full risk assessment report and everything, in order to stave off any claims of endangering people.

Bold, direct *and* savvy. What a crew!