Two climate change protesters were acquitted of criminal damage in the United Kingdom in a rare success using what has been called the necessity defense to justify civil disobedience.
A jury in Southwark Crown Court in London took the minimum time of two hours to reach a unanimous ‘not guilty’ verdict for Roger Hallam and David Durant, despite instructions from the judge that they should not consider the defendants’ claim that their actions were necessary to address the climate crisis.
“When ordinary people faced the truth, they understand the climate and ecological emergency better than our politicians,” said Hallam, one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion, an action group that staged high-profile protests that disrupted large parts of central London last month.
Both men represented themselves in the three-day trial. Durant said they could not afford a lawyer and were not eligible for legal aid, and they also believed by arguing their own case they had “a bit more leeway to make arguments that our lawyer didn’t want to make. We wanted to present ourselves as just normal people to a jury.”
Both admitted they had caused the damage but pleaded not guilty, arguing that their actions were a proportionate response to the climate crisis.
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