UK Court clears Greenpeace Protesters of Criminal Damage to Coal Plant

by: Heather on 09/18/2008
Posted in: Activism

OK, I'm late to the party on this story, which has been making the rounds of the Internet for nearly a week, but it's such an incredibly important one that I feel I need to cover it anyways.

In the Sept. 11 issue of The Independent, Michael McCarthy reported that six Greenpeace activists were cleared of charges of causing criminal damage after they scaled a chimney at the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent, UK and began to paint a political message which the power plant later claimed it cost more than £35,000 to remove.

From the story:

Jurors accepted defence arguments that the six had a "lawful excuse" to damage property at Kingsnorth power station in Kent to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change. The defence of "lawful excuse" under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage - such as breaking down the door of a burning house to tackle a fire.

The not-guilty verdict, delivered after two days and greeted with cheers in the courtroom, raises the stakes for the most pressing issue on Britain's green agenda and could encourage further direct action.

Obviously this sets a phenomenal precedent for British activists. The jury's decision to uphold the defendants' claim that they had acted lawfully, "owing to an honestly held belief that their attempt to stop emissions from Kingsnorth would prevent further damage to properties worldwide caused by global warming", and that their actions "constituted a proportionate response to the increasing environmental threat" sends a clear message that the average Briton is prepared to take climate change very, very seriously.

Greenpeace UK has posted the full defense witness statements on their website, including one from Professor Jim Hansen - a leading climate change scientist, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute who testified at the trial.

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