Ratcliffe Trial Day 12 – Concluding Speeches

Miss Felicity Gerry for the prosecution begins her speech to the jury. She says the actions of these defendants was not necessary but unreasonable and hence criminal in character. Throughout much of the trial, the evidence and facts have been agreed by both sides.

On the 13 April 2009, police prevented a large scale aggravated trespass that was to have taken place at Ratcliffe Power Station.  It was not necessary to carry out this action since in a free and democratic society, many other methods are available. Direct action was not a necessity but a choice, a main object of which was to highlight issues and actions to the media. You’ve heard that the action cost £15,000.  I ask you to image what that money could have bought in public engagement. An iPhone application, celebrity endorsements, an air ticket to Cancún, Mexico.

She agrees that the science presented was all correct. There is little dispute that the world is getting warmer and that the causes are man-made.  It’s not for the jury to decide if these changes are in fact man-made or a produce of the natural cycles of the earth. The public need to be reasonably informed, but these defendants chose not to take this course.

Miss Gerry says that this action was not about saving carbon emissions but about publicity and hence was not reasonable or necessary.  There was no necessity for this action. She sits down.

For the defence, Mr Edward Rees QC begins his speech to the jury.  He says, the principle issues in this case, it’s about if the defendants conduct was unlawful. Further, whether in the absence of any violence on their part, their actions were criminal. We say that their intended conduct was necessary in all the circumstances. It is for the prosecution to prove that their conduct was not necessary to gain their conviction. This is the burden of proof and is so in all trials. Our law does make an allowance for necessity in action.

Mr Rees mentions the Suffragette movement.  Recounting a conversation with prosecution counsel earlier, she had said that those defendants were a ‘load of wimps’ next to the Suffragette example. They would have thrown themselves at the chimneys with skirts billowing!!  He invites the jury to remember that this was happening not so long ago. It seems ridiculous to us now that women didn’t have the vote.  Looking back, future generations would look kindly on these people and their actions.

A large and expensive police operation that must have been planned much earlier and must have been intelligence lead in character.  Therefore, with this advance notice, why didn’t the police or the company obtain an injunction to prevent any action? You’ve heard about the police breaking down doors of the school and refusing people the facility to repair and tidy the premises. A complete inversion on what you might have expected.

Returning to the core word ‘reasonableness’.  Action need to be proportionate to the threat perceived.  This of course will vary to the circumstances.  The jury will want to know, what is the test of this?  If attacked, defensive action would be self-defence and thus a person would be not guilty.  Likewise, if a person thought he was going to be attacked and that thought was in the circumstances, reasonable.  Again, in those circumstances, he would be not guilty.

Mr Rees says that the prosecution say that the action was not necessary since the defendants knew emissions wouldn’t have been saved.  This hare was set running by Mr Smith, the Ratcliffe Station Manager in his evidence.  They produce no evidence about this. The fact was that coal stations were already running.  So it is in fact true that the more efficient [if expensive] gas-fired might be the ones to have been started up to compensate.  Thus, the defendants did reasonably believe that a net saving of emissions would have resulted from their action.  They did believe this and hence their actions were reasonable.

Consider the evidence of Dr. Hassen from NASA, contending that due to emissions, species were being lost and his descriptions of  human distress. The Stern Review refers to economic and social costs and being the authorities in their subject that they are, the defendants reasonably believed this. All the expert evidence in this trial only adds to the weight of evidence and concern. All seams to suggest that immediate action is required.  Amazingly, we are now burning more coal than in 1998.  In 2007, Ratcliffe Power Station emitted 9.3 million and a year later in 2008 had increased to 9.9 tons.

Right at the heart of this case and the necessity of action is the notion of ‘tipping points’.  There remains no agreement on what’s to be done.  There is simply no political will to reduce emissions,

The prosecutions idea of knocking on doors to convey their concern, simply to inform the public locally … it’s nowhere near enough to deal with such continued emissions. The prosecution says they haven’t engaged with the political process.  But they have!  They have done it all.  No political change. No international agreement. ‘Business as usual’ remains the position. The defendants therefore remain pessimistic about any change without the need to deliver a good kick.  He ridicules the prosecutions idea that going to Copenhagen to argue with American Republicans or to create a catchy slogan to illustrate climate change to the Chinese would have changed anything.

Energy Companies have a legal duty to their shareholders to maximise profits. This is not balanced by government insisting on emission reductions from their activities. Profit being the prime motive in their operations, energy companies including E-on, have abandoned carbon capture experiments because they say they’re uneconomic.

Mr Rees says he has some experience of coal as he and his wife come from the South Wales valleys. The slag heaps are no longer there and those communities have gone.  But in opposition to what you might perceive as a lack of the coal industry production, coal burning at Ratcliffe and others is in fact rising. Cheap imported coal is what is now getting burned. With international politics, Middle East situations and oil price rising etc … coal burning will continue to rise.  The commercial imperative is driving the market.  ‘Business as usual’.

In contrast to politicians rhetoric and the associated lack of action, these people actually did something about it.  Without targets being set, there is simply no foreseeable action to be taken by governments and companies. The limited progress of the conferences at Cancún, Mexico happening now is showing us this. These defendants are genuinely concerned.  If that is so, it is proper to think you have to do something about it. Alternatively, is it in our experience of society that we should trust our betters or political representatives to take actions for us?

People had tried so many democratic means to express their concerns. But ‘business as usual’ has continued.  Would they have achieved more reductions in emissions had they tried any other means?

This was not the jolly that the prosecution have tried thought this trial to suggest.

Mr Rees has finished all presentations for the defence, and sits down.

His Honour Judge Teare now sums up the case for the jury. He started by saying that on waking up on that day and hearing on the radio of the arrest of the 114 people at Iona School in Nottingham … I wondered what poor devil is going to have to try this case  Grins all round again.

You the jury are to decide the fact of the case, I am the judge and you must follow my directions on the law. The prosecution must prove the case referring to the indictment. Now, there is no dispute that they were going to commit aggravated trespass. But, they say, they were justified in that action by necessity.  If you conclude, the defendants believed this, even mistakenly, then, they are not guilty.  They must act responsibly and proportionately in all the circumstances.  In deciding that, a crime may have been committed, but consider if their actions were reasonable and proportionate in preventing harm.

The case it to be considered by you against each of the defendants, individually.  Reach a verdict on which you are all agreed on all.  But if you can’t then we go through a process for each of them.

The Judge mentions that the trial is taking place at an inopportune time, with much press discussion of the Cancún, Mexico talks.  You are to put all that out of your mind and try the defendant on the evidence presented in this case.

With respect to the defendants ‘No Comment’ replies, during police interviews, the Judge says this should not be held against them. They had solicitors advice contained in the ‘bust card’ that all had read.  As this advises ‘No Comment’ replies, he says the jury should not draw any inference from that silence.

Judge then went on to an extensive reminder of the facts of the case.

The jury will retire tomorrow ….. and hence the case continues.

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