Friday, July 03, 2009

the drax 29 await their verdict

As I reported at the time, in June last year 29 people boarded a coal train heading to Drax power station and started shovelling coal on to the tracks. Their case finally came to court this week.

Even though people who shut down Kingsnorth power station were acquitted when they said they did it to stop the damage caused by carbon emissions, the judge in the Drax case ruled that he would not allow a defence of necessity.

Legal precedent is only set when a judgement is made and then upheld on appeal. No surprise that the state didn't appeal the Kingsnorth acquittal. The Drax case is the next big test of the legality of stopping carbon emissions, and so you have to wonder whether there aren't instructions behind the scenes to encourage a guilty verdict.

Despite the necessity defence being disallowed and so the defendants not being able to call the impressive array of climate experts they'd lined up, they still got their perspective across to the jury.

More, in their closing statement they made it plain that the judge has no right to instruct a guilty verdict, that a jury is free to give whatever verdict their conscience dictates, and reiterated their motivation.

I want you to think back to that situation of there being a person on the tracks ahead of that train going on its way to Drax. Members of the Jury, it may sound like a strange thing to say but in truth there is a person on the branch line to Drax.

The prosecution have not challenged the facts we presented to you on oath about the consequences of burning coal at Drax. 180 human lives lost every year, species lost forever. There is a direct, unequivocal, proven link between the emissions of carbon dioxide at this power station and the appalling consequences of climate change.

That many of those consequences impact on the poor of other nations or people in Hull we don't know and should not in any way negate the reality of this suffering. We got on that train to stop those emissions, because all other methods in our democracy were failing.

Just because we don't know the name of the person on the tracks or where they live or the exact time and day of their dying, does not in our view mean they are less worthy of protection.

The jury is considering its verdict, and is expected to give it later today.


John B said...

Interesting, thanks. Isn't it (legally) contempt of court to draw the jury's attention to the fact that they can acquit the defendant irrespective of the facts of the case? For some reason I thought it was.

NomadUK said...

Should the court hold them in contempt, it would surely be worthy of nothing else.

merrick said...

John, for the reasons the defendants gave in their closing statemtn, the jury have the right to acquit. The court, in theory, is the people's court. It is the jury who are the highest members, not the judge.

They quoted Lord Denning's explanation of the establishing of that right in the Penn and Mead case of 1670, and the conclusion being afirmed by Law Lords in 2005 unequivocally saying "there are no circumstances in which a judge is entitled to direct a jury to return a verdict of guilty".