A jury has cleared nine climate activists of causing £500,000 worth of criminal damage to HSBC’s London headquarters after they argued had a “lawful excuse” for the action. The Times has the story.
The women, all members of Extinction Rebellion (XR), sang as they shattered windows with hammers and chisels at about 7am on April 22nd 2021.
Jessica Agar, 23, Blyth Brentnall, 32, Valerie Brown, 71, Eleanor Bujak, 30, Clare Farrell, 40, Miriam Instone, 25, Tracey Mallaghan, 47, Susan Reid, 65, and Samantha Smithson, 41, all denied criminal damage.
Stella McCartney, the fashion designer, had lent them shirts, blazers and suits to wear during their trial at Southwark crown court, XR said. McCartney was contacted for comment.
The nine, two of whom represented themselves, were cleared by a jury after a three-week trial. The defendants said that they targeted HSBC because it was one of Europe’s largest investors in fossil fuels, thereby contributing to climate change.
During the attack they wore patches reading “Better broken windows than broken promises” and placed stickers on the windows, reading “£80bn into fossil fuels in the last five years”.
XR said that the jury made several requests during the trial, including for an explanation of the Paris climate agreement and information on what the government had done to address climate change.
None of the defendants denied their part in the action and their case was based on the defence of “lawful excuse”. The Criminal Damage Act allows such a defence if the defendant believed that they had the consent of others to damage the property in question.
This seems like a misapplication of the law. How can it be seriously entertained that they “believed” they had “consent” to cause HSBC’s HQ half a million pounds worth of criminal damage? It’s depressing that this acquittal came via a jury, an institution that is supposed to be a bulwark against elitist nonsense, not a promoter of it.
The Times reports that of the members of XR to have faced a jury trial, “29 have been cleared and 18 have been convicted”. Juries are clearly sympathetic to the climate alarmist cause, even letting off activists who admit criminal damage. As I say, depressing. It seems the law may need tightening.