Judge Reid threatens JURY with criminal charges at protester trial

  • Post last modified:March 4, 2024
  • Reading time:11 mins read

Rishi Sunak’s appalling and authoritarian comments over protesters – calling them ‘extremists‘ and saying the UK is heading towards ‘mob rule‘ – appears to now be reflected in England’s justice system. This is because a Crown Court judge, Judge Silas Reid, has now threatened a jury with criminal charges during the trial of five Extinction Rebellion protesters.

In case of climate emergency – break glass

Back on 1 September 2021, eight women from Extinction Rebellion lined up at the European office of JPMorgan at Embankment and carefully broke two windows with hammers and chisels. Wearing all black, the women used painted hammers with words such as LIFE, LOVE and CARE on them to break glass at the ‘world’s worst bank’:

Extinction Rebellion JP Morgan

Before doing so they stuck stickers to the windows that read ‘In case of climate emergency, break glass’. Care was taken to make sure no one inside or nearby the building was put at risk of harm.

After the glass was broken, the women sat down in front of the bank in a circle and waited for the police to arrive. They were wearing patches that read ‘Deeds not words’ and ‘Stop the harm’.

JPMorgan is the world’s worst bank for funding fossil fuels, having invested $317bn into them since the Paris Climate Agreement.

Judge Reid: threatening jurors with prosecution

So, cops arrested the women and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged five of them with £330,000 worth of criminal damage – while JPMorgan made nearly $50bn in profit last year. The woman charged (and now found guilty) are:

  • Stephanie Aylett, a former medical device representative from St Albans.
  • Pamela Bellinger, a vegetable grower from Leicester.
  • Amy Pritchard, a student from Liverpool.
  • Adelheid Russenberger, a PhD student from Richmond, London.
  • Rosemary (Annie) Webster, a retired cook and beekeeper from Dorchester, Dorset:

Five Extinction Rebellion protesters outside court

Now, Judge Reid found them guilty on Friday 1 March – while previously casting doubt on the existence and severity of the climate crisis in his directions to the jury. He said in court on 28 February:

The circumstances of the damage do not include any climate crisis which may or may not exist in the world at the moment.

Whether climate change is as dangerous as each of the defendants may clearly and honestly believe or is not, is irrelevant and does not form any part of the circumstances of the damage.

This was not the peak of Judge Reid’s questionable behaviour. Perhaps most worryingly he also threatened jurors with criminal charges if they brought their conscience to bear on their deliberations. He said:

It is only on the evidence you are able to try the case and not on conscience… It is a criminal offence for a juror to do anything from which it can be concluded that a decision will be made on anything other than the evidence.

This is not the first time Judge Reid has courted controversy with his judicial war against those who claim climate change is real and dare to do something about it.

Judge Reid: a law unto himself

Last year he imprisoned three people for defying his ban on mentioning the words ‘climate change’ and ‘fuel poverty’ in his courtroom.

At about the same time, he threatened a Guardian journalist with contempt of court, on the basis that the journalist’s presence in court at the same time that people broke his order on what
words they could use suggested he was ‘in on it’.

He had Trudi Warner, a 68 year-old retired social worker, arrested for upholding a sign outside court setting out the principle of jury equity. He then referred 24 more people to the Attorney General for doing the same thing. Judge Reid’s judicial zeal is evident from the fact that although hundreds of other people have done the same thing at courts across England and Wales, no other judge has found it necessary to intervene in this quiet exercise of free expression.

Undeterred, last week Judge Reid made comments which caused DC David Honan, the police officer in the case, to threaten those holding signs on 22 February outside with arrest if they returned the next day (when the group returned the following day regardless, the police failed to show their faces).

In June 2023, Judge Reid appeared to admit in open court that he had shifted the judicial goalposts on to prevent a recurrent pattern of not guilty verdicts. When the Revd Sue Parfitt asked him why he had disallowed certain facts in a trial, which he had previously admitted in evidence in a similar trial which resulted in her acquittal, he responded, “Once bitten twice shy.”

Last February, one young climate defender took his own life, in between court appearances in front of Judge Reid.

Has he lost his mind?

A spokesperson for campaign group Defend Our Juries said:

Judge Reid’s attempt to stamp out moral conscience from his courtroom is not only unconscionable. It’s a cynical and unlawful attempt to coerce the jury into reaching the verdict he wants. In 2019, he praised climate defenders as acting from the “purest of motives” for a “noble cause”.

Now he’s locking people up just for mentioning ‘climate change’ and ‘fuel poverty’ in his courtroom, arresting people for holding up signs with the law on, and threatening jurors against using their conscience, as they’re entitled to do.

His role in criminalising and imprisoning so many noble and courageous people appears to have affected his mind.

Judge Reid’s actions come after another, arguably even more preposterous judge, found three Just Stop Oil activists guilty of ‘aggravated trespass’ – for throwing confetti and jigsaw pieces at Wimbledon.

Sentencing of the five Extinction Rebellion activists has been scheduled to take place on Wednesday 7 June, also at Inner London Crown Court.

Featured image supplied and additional images via Extinction Rebellion

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