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Kingsnorth Trial Day Six: The Summing Up
Things are getting really interesting; the end of the trial is probably close (it looks as though the jury will be sent out to decide their verdict at 11.30 on Tuesday), we’ve seen the summing up from both the defence and the prosecution, there’s been laughter and a few tears and, again, I’m going to struggle to get all my notes into a blog-sized piece.
First up was a statement (originally due on Friday) from Aqqaluk Lynge, an Inuit leader personally responsible for addressing damage to property in Greenland as a result of climate change. There’s a lot of it for him to address:
“Climate change affects my community, the Inuit people, by affecting their environment, which we see is more polluted due to increased shipping, the kind and numbers of species that they hunt, the house and camp constructions that they have to build on melting and unpredictable soils, the unpredictable weather… the sliding of houses into the sea… the reduction of habitats for polar bears and other species, and the introduction of new pest species.”
After hearing the defendants’ character statements, the jury watched a video of Kevin and Emily painting the chimney (complete with Kevin whistling nonchalantly as he dangled 200 metres above the ground).
By midday, we were onto the nitty gritty: the final summing up, beginning with the prosecution. Prosecutor John Price began by explaining ‘lawful excuse‘. In certain circumstances, he said, it’s legal to damage property in order to protect property. But “necessarily, there must be limits” and the defendants crossed the line.
Much of the prosecution’s case focused on the consequences of the jury’s verdict. If the jury provides the defendants with a lawful excuse, “where does that leave the rest of us?” You’ve heard, he told the jury, that every ounce of carbon dioxide is capable of causing damage. “Where does that leave your motorcar? What of the old lady who lights a coal fire – is her chimney fair game?”
If our law is to protect the property of that old lady, he argued, then it must protect also the property “even of a German power company that makes large profits”. These defendants are guilty of criminal damage not because their motives were false or their actions morally repellant, but “for the very simple, mundane and bland reason” that they broke the law.
Just after 2pm it was the turn of the defence. (“Exciting, isn’t it?” Michael Wolkind QC asked the jury before launching into a Poirot-like dissection of the evidence.)
He began by dismissing the prosecution’s argument that these defendants should be convicted in case a “loony” decided to attack a car or an old lady’s chimney in future. That was up to future juries to decide, he said. The job of this jury is to return a verdict on these witnesses – a point later supported by His Honour Judge Caddick in his own summing up.
He recapped on Professor Jim Hansen’s evidence, including his statements that stopping emissions from Kingsnorth for one day will prevent damage to property and increase the chances of protecting at least one species from extinction, and that we need a moratorium on all new coal plants without carbon capture and storage. I won’t repeat the rest of Hansen’s evidence here but please do go and read it – it’s extremely important stuff.
He also recapped Zac Goldsmith’s evidence and the defendants’ testimonies. Will, he said, had introduced evidence (photographs) of six people “causing criminal damage to a whiteboard”. Malcolm Wicks, Douglas Alexander, David Miliband, Ruth Kelly, Hilary Benn and John Hutton had all signed a whiteboard committing to take action on climate change. “What have they done?” asked Wolkind. In terms of policy, we’re going in completely the wrong direction.
Tomorrow, he said, the jury needs to consider three questions. If they say yes to all of them, the verdict must be not guilty. If they say no to even one, the verdict should be guilty:
1. Is it possible that the defendants caused damage in order to protect property? (“It’s overwhelmingly certain,” said Wolkind. Why else would they climb up a 200 metre smoke stack carrying 50 kilos each? For fun? To lose weight?)
2. Is it possible the defendants believed property was in immediate need of protection? (There’s an “overwhelming certainty that they believed it.”)
3. Is it possible that the means of protesting were reasonable, considering the circumstances? (It was evidently reasonable, said Wolkind. They did the minimum damage they needed to to shut down the power station.)
“It is not a case where, sadly and regrettably, nice people have gone a little too far and committed a crime… We won’t accept a sugar-coated path to conviction… What these defendants did was sincere, heartfelt, good, lawful and courageous.”
“By what right is government policy and a billionaire energy company destroying our world?” he asked before, basically, inviting the jurors to become members of Greenpeace.
Finally, it was Judge Caddick’s turn. I missed this due to a technical problem (OK, a loo break after which I couldn’t get back into court) so I’ll quote directly from PA:
His Honour Judge Caddick, who today began his summing up after a week-long trial, said: “The good faith of each of the defendants and their commitment to the cause of the environment is not in doubt. Their motives for causing the damage, that they each admit, is not questioned. It is not alleged that any of them is an unthinking vandal. The issue is whether, despite what they have said and their undoubted good faith, they had a lawful excuse for what they did.”…
“In this country we have a long and honourable history of not only free speech, but accommodating protests and demonstrations by those who, on conscientious grounds, wish to affirm and draw attention to their beliefs and causes,” the judge said.
He said that allowance for demonstrations does not extend to breaking the law and that the jury’s task was to examine the boundary line represented by the lawful excuse and to evaluate whether the defendants crossed the line as the Crown charged.
He also clarified some legal points; damage to property could include damage arising from floods, fires and global warming. For questions two and three, he explained, it’s irrelevant whether the defendants beliefs were justified or not, as long as they were firmly believed.
Tomorrow, the Judge will finish his summing up and then it’s over to the jury. I’ll be keeping you posted on the blog as things unfold, and breaking the news of the verdict on Twitter.