Jury acquits Extinction Rebellion protesters despite ‘no defence in law’ | Extinction Rebellion


Six Extinction Rebellion protesters have been cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors that they had no defence in law.

Two of the group’s co-founders, Simon Bramwell, 49, and Ian Bray, 53, were acquitted on Friday alongside Jane Augsburger, 55, Senan Clifford, 60, David Lambert, 62, and James “Sid” Saunders, 41, after a trial at Southwark crown court.

The six, who represented themselves, were also cleared of individual counts of having an article with intent to destroy or damage property, while a seventh protester, Katerina Hasapopoulos, 43, earlier pleaded guilty to criminal damage.

Prosecutor Diana Wilson told jurors that each of the defendants deliberately sprayed graffiti or smashed windows of the Shell building in Belvedere Road, central London, on 15 April 2019.

The protest, which saw activists pour fake oil, glue themselves to windows and doors, break glass, climb on to a roof and spray graffiti, was part of wider Extinction Rebellion demonstrations across the capital.

Wilson said that while some protesters stood outside the building holding banners or speaking through megaphones, “these defendants went further”, adding: “The seven involved caused significant damage.”

All those who stood trial explained they had targeted the Shell building because the oil giant was directly contributing to the climate crisis, thereby causing serious injury and death, and argued that it was a “necessary” and “proportionate” response to the harm being caused.

Clifford quoted Sir David Attenborough and former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his evidence.

He said: “I believe if I don’t do whatever I can to protect our Earth, to protect life on this Earth, to stop the death and injury that is and will be happening, I’m committing a crime, a really serious crime, and I’m willing to break a window, to paint a message on a wall, I’m willing to break the glass on that emergency button, even if some say that’s a crime.

“Because this is a much bigger crime and I’m trying to stop that crime, I’m trying to protect life in the only way I feel I can.”

Judge Gregory Perrins directed jurors that even if they thought the protesters were “morally justified”, it did not provide them with a lawful excuse to commit criminal damage.

With the exception of Saunders, who claimed in his defence that he honestly believed Shell’s employees and shareholders would have consented to his criminal damage, the judge said: “They don’t have any defence in law for the charges they face.”

But the jury of seven women and five men took seven hours and four minutes to acquit them of both charges. Some of the defendants waved at jurors, several of whom were visibly emotional, as they left court.

Before reaching their verdicts, the jury had asked to see a copy of the oath they took when they were sworn in.

Thanking jurors for their “care and attention”, the judge said: “This has been an unusual case.”

Augsburger, Bramwell, Clifford, Lambert and Saunders, who are all from Stroud, Gloucestershire and Bray, from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, were jubilant as they left court. Hasapopoulos, from Stroud will be sentenced later.

Speaking after the verdicts, Bramwell said Hasapopoulos had only pleaded guilty because of childcare issues.

He said: “This is such a significant victory for the consciousness of the British people when it comes to the huge, immediate threat of climate change and the absolute failure of our government to do anything meaningful about it.”



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