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Protests against climate change in England and Wales result in loss of defense against charges of criminal damage.
Environment World News

Protests against climate change in England and Wales result in loss of defense against charges of criminal damage.

The court of appeal has eliminated one of the remaining protections for climate activists who engage in acts of vandalism. According to the court, a defendant’s beliefs and reasons cannot serve as a valid excuse for causing damage to someone else’s property.

Last year, protesters successfully utilized the argument that a person genuinely believing the property owner would have given consent if they were aware of the complete details of climate change.

Following a request from Victoria Prentis KC, the attorney general, related to a case involving a defendant known as C, the court of appeal ruled that the defendant’s political or philosophical beliefs and underlying motivations were not directly connected to the criminal damage and therefore did not justify a lawful excuse. Additionally, the court stated that any statements from the defendants regarding the facts of climate change would not be considered admissible evidence.

Tom Little KC, acting on behalf of the attorney general, informed the judges of the appeal court that the use of the “consent” defence according to the Criminal Damage Act 1971 was incorrect and too broadly interpreted. This defence, specific to criminal damage cases, involves the defendant making the argument that they genuinely believed the property owner would have given consent if they had been aware of the reasons behind the damage.

Henry Blaxland, a King’s Counsel, stated that it was up to the jury to determine if a defendant genuinely believed that the property owner would have given consent to the damage inflicted.

Blaxland stated that the decision should be left to the jury. He explained that preventing the defendant from presenting their defense to the jurors could potentially lead to the violation of their constitutional right to a trial by jury.

Sue Carr, the top judge in England and Wales, stated that the court must take into account the severity, timeliness, and significance of a defendant’s concern when evaluating the damage that has occurred.

The court ruled that the cause of the damage must be directly related to the damage and may involve factors such as the timing, location, and degree of the damage. In the case of a protest, it would also include that the damage occurred as a result of the protest.

However, the circumstances in consideration would not pertain to the political or philosophical beliefs of the individual responsible for causing the harm. They would also not encompass the reasoning or broader intentions of the defendant, as these factors are not directly linked to the harm itself.

“Any testimony regarding the facts or consequences of climate change from the defendant would not be allowed as evidence.”

Tim Crosland, the representative of Plan B, stated that the Court of Appeal’s understanding of the law was strange. He questioned when those in the legal field and the judiciary will realize the reality of the situation. Crosland believes that it is clear to anyone paying attention that British law is being used by the fossil fuel industry to suppress and silence individuals who are fighting against the imminent threat of climate change.

“What will it take for the UN and civil society organizations’ urgent actions to raise warning signals? The failure of established courts to fulfill their duty of safeguarding the British public from power abuse makes it inevitable for others to take action.”

Source: theguardian.com