Protester who held sign outside London climate trial prosecuted
A retired social worker who held up a placard about the rights of jurors outside a trial of climate protesters is being prosecuted for contempt of court by the solicitor general, the Guardian can reveal.
The decision to prosecute Trudi Warner, 68, came as it emerged the police were separately investigating at least 12 people on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice for holding up similar signs outside a London court.
Warner, who held up a sign outside Inner London crown court earlier this year on the rights of jurors, has been told in a letter she is to be prosecuted for contempt of court by Michael Tomlinson KC, the solicitor general – a government minister and the Conservative MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole – lawyers confirmed. The case will take place in the high court.
She protested after a judge imposed restrictions on defendants in a series of climate trials that prevented them from mentioning climate change, insulation, fuel poverty or their motivations for taking action during their trials. The civil rights group Liberty labelled the restrictions “deeply concerning”.
Several people who ignored the judge’s restrictions have been jailed for contempt of court. Amy Pritchard and Giovanna Lewis, who were both jailed for seven weeks after they ignored the judge’s ruling not to mention climate change in their address to the jury, are appealing against their conviction for contempt of court.
Warner, who witnessed some of the trials, sat outside Inner London crown court holding a sign that read: “Jurors: you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”
She was committed to the Old Bailey for contempt of court proceedings, where a high court judge referred the case to Tomlinson, to decide whether to pursue contempt proceedings or charge her with attempting to pervert the course of justice. He wrote to Warner last Thursday to say he had decided to prosecute her for contempt of court.
A separate investigation is ongoing into allegations of attempting to pervert the course of justice relating to at least 12 people who stood outside Inner London crown court in May holding placards. The inquiry, which is being led by the public order crime unit, is in its early stages.
The 12 have received letters from the Metropolitan police’s specialist public order unit that state: “You have recently been identified as taking part in an incident outside the Inner London crown court … whereby you were seated outside of the court and held a placard with the words; ‘The right of juries – to give their verdict according to their convictions’, in a place where both witnesses and jurors attending trials … could not avoid seeing them.”
The letter went on: “This may amount to an offence under the common law of attempting to pervert the course of justice.”
Tim Crosland, a lawyer and one of those being investigated by the Met, said: “It’s surreal. On the one hand it’s terrifying because that is the situation in this country at the moment, and on the other hand I feel like we are revealing something truthful about the situation, the extreme repression that is happening in this country at the moment in relation to people holding the government to account … and the repression that is happening in courts around trials for people exposing the government’s lies and how desperate the state is to prevent a jury reaching not guilty verdicts in these climate cases.”
The investigation was sparked after Judge Silas Reid referred 24 people to the attorney general this summer after they protested outside his court in May. The group staged a two-day protest outside Inner London crown court in May, holding placards that read: “Jurors have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to their conscience.”
Scotland Yard said: “On Friday, 21 July the Met received an allegation of perverting the course of justice relating to activity outside of Inner London crown court on Monday 15 May. An investigation is being carried out; no arrests have been made.”
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s Office said: “Contempt of court is a serious matter and the power to issue proceedings is used sparingly. When investigating potential contempt issues, the law officers assess whether the evidential test for the specific form of contempt is met.
“In this case, the law officers considered the deliberate act of doing something that interferes or creates a real risk of interference with the administration of justice, and whether it is in the public interest to begin proceedings for contempt.
“We can confirm the solicitor general has determined to institute proceedings against Trudi Warner in the public interest, it will now be a matter for the court.”