BREAKING: The XR activists who took on oil giant Shell – and won
April 23, 2021 by Extinction Rebellion
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Six Extinction Rebellion activists have been acquitted in a landmark verdict at Southwark Crown Court this afternoon.
The jury delivered its not guilty verdict for each defendant, despite Judge Perrins ruling that five of the six had no defence under the law.
The trial, for criminal damage to the Shell HQ building in London’s Waterloo in April 2019, which could have led to a maximum five year prison sentence and / or a £10k fine each, is XR’s second only case to be heard before a jury. 
The verdict is being hailed as a major victory for climate campaigners everywhere facing increasing criminalisation. Defendant Simon Bramwell, 49, cofounder of Extinction Rebellion, said: “It is a significant victory for the truth of these times, when despite the letter of the law, jurors can clearly see that a broken window is a just response to a breaking world.”
“How fitting that this comes after Earth Day and the two year anniversary of the death of environmental lawyer Polly Higgins, founder of the Stop Ecocide campaign, to whom we dedicated our non violent direct action against Shell. With today’s verdict, it is clear who the real climate criminals are in the climate and ecological emergency. ‘Shell knew’ as we wrote.”  
From L to R: Senan Clifford, Jane Augsburger, Simon Bramwell, Sid Saunders,
Ian Bray, David Lambert. Credit Helena Smith
The six defendants – Jane Augsburger 55, Senan Clifford – 60, David Lambert – 62, Sid Saunders 41 and Extinction Rebellion co-founders Ian Bray, 53 and Simon Bramwell, 49 – were charged with over £25k criminal damage during an action at the Shell building on the first day of XR’s 2019 April Rebellion. Katerina Hasapopoulous, 43, who also took part in the action, pleaded guilty on 12th April as the trial began, as she is breastfeeding – and home educates her three daughters. 
The action was designed to increase public knowledge of Shell’s complicity in the climate and ecological emergency. Thirty years ago, Shell researched the effect of carbon emissions on the climate but instead of moving out of fossil fuels, they hired lobbyists to mislead the public and block action for decades, and committed heinous crimes such as its role in the murders of the Ogoni 9 in Nigeria.  Today, its greenwashing net zero strategy – even when it is apparent there is no carbon budget left for 1.5C or 2C – includes $8 billion investment in oil and gas, and only $2-3 billion on renewables with a “delusional” reliance on tree planting and future carbon capture and storage technology.   Meanwhile the corporation continues to spend millions on advertising and lobbyists.
During the protest – which lasted over 24 hours – activists poured fake oil, glued themselves to the windows and blocked doors. They cracked several windows, climbed onto the entrance canopy, dropped banners and painted the exterior with ‘Shell Knew’, ‘Climate Criminals’ and ‘Lies’.
The activists also sprayed ‘Stop Ecocide’ and ‘For Polly 💗 ’ on the wall of the building in support of the Stop Ecocide movement, which aims to criminalise the mass destruction of nature. Founder Polly Higgins lived in Stroud, the same town as the majority of the group, and was terminally ill when the action took place. She passed away six days later. In the 2 years since, political interest in criminalising ecocide has gained significant momentum, with France and Belgium among the States now discussing it at government level.
The six defendants had hoped to rely on the necessity defence – which provides a lawful excuse for a criminal act if intended to prevent a greater harm – and to argue that their actions that day were necessary to raise the alarm about the threat of climate change and pressure the UK government to act. Sitting Judge Perrins allowed the defendants to explain their beliefs to the jury but had ruled the necessity defence inadmissible, leaving only Sid Saunders with a defence recognised under law. Sid argued that he believed Shell (considered as a whole, including all the staff, shareholders and management) would have consented to his actions.
All the defendants chose to represent themselves, allowing them to address the jury directly throughout the nine day trial and to deliver their own closing statements, powerful speeches in which they addressed the jurors as fellow citizens, spoke about the climate emergency and the sixth mass extinction and apologised if it was in the court that they first heard the bad news.
They showed respect for the court but then put forward their own arguments. One spoke of the children he teaches, another of extinction, another asked the jury to follow the judge, consider the law and then put it aside to find them non guilty, one spoke of his Quaker faith and lamented that there is only a court of law and not a court of morals. Finally the youngest rebel, Sid Saunders, talked about his belief that if Shell employees had known the truth as he did they would have consented to the actions.
In his own summing up, Judge Perrins told the jury it was rare for defendants to accept what they did, but still plead ‘not guilty’. “This is a highly unusual case,” he said. He then directed the jury, that apart from Sid Saunders, the defendants had no defence under the law.
“As I have said already, this is a court of law, it is not a court of morals,” Judge Perrins said. “I have given you clear direction on what the law is and your duty to apply that law to the facts as you find them to be.” He went on to remind them of the oath they had taken to “reach true verdicts according to the evidence”. Adding: “Those are not mere empty words. A true verdict is one that is reached having all due regard to the law. That is how our jury system works and that is what you all pledged to do.”
David Lambert, 60, in his closing statement said: ‘By undertaking an action that would result in our being judged by a jury, we are seeking justice not from the law but a verdict from our community – were we right or wrong, was our action justified or not?’ If the climate emergency is what we believe it is, and neither the judge nor the prosecution has raised any dispute about the mass of evidence on the climate emergency we have imposed upon you, what then should we do?”
Senan Clifford, 62, told the jury: “And I want you to remember, you are also here as representatives for all the people out there, our society. You are here to see that they get the justice they need! That is what Justice is.. It’s not about what the Crown needs, what the Government wants, what big business wants.. – it’s about what the people feel is right, is needed, based upon what they know is right; right in their hearts, in their minds, in their consciences.. what is right in your consciences – in these extra-ordinary, and terrifying times.
“It’s not about a likeable cause – it’s about life and death. It’s not about broken windows, it’s about how we face our future, or fail to do so.. as we have failed until now.. and the 1000’s that are paying, have paid for this with their lives! Please do not be complicit in that, the largest crime of all.”
One of the defendants, Jane Augsburger 55, from Stroud, a single parent and carer who looks after vulnerable people including her father who died last year, said in her closing statement: “The suffragettes had to break all the windows on Oxford St to get the vote. It felt like I was 20 years too late when I did the action; our protest was to point out that vandalism to the planet is legal.”
“I’m just overwhelmed by the support that we’ve received from people in Stroud and beyond. I haven’t been able to look at all the messages to be honest. I and the other defendants would just like to say thank you,” she added after the verdict was declared.
Environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin, who helped to negotiate the Paris Agreement, has been a lead author on three of the five IPCC reports, was arrested in the final hours of the Shell protest for gluing herself to Shell HQ. She was subject to investigations but the police did not bring charges.  She said: “I glued myself to the UK Headquarters of Shell two years ago on April 16th 2019 to highlight the criminal responsibility of big oil & gas companies in the destruction of our natural world.”
“The law should hold Shell accountable for its share of climate devastation and abuse of human rights. Prosecuting activists for standing up for climate justice while letting the big polluters off the hook just brings our legal system into disrepute. We need our legal system to right the wrongs done by Shell and the oil majors so that we can get back on track with the Paris Agreement.”
Jojo Mehta, Co-Founder, Stop Ecocide International:
“The action at Shell’s HQ shone a light on the failure of current legal frameworks to protect people and planet, since the practices of big oil companies which destroy habitats and exacerbate the climate crisis are still permitted. It’s fantastic that this deeply felt act of conscience has been recognised by the jury for what it was – an attempt to prevent harm, not to cause it.”
“For the Stop Ecocide campaign it was a significant moment, coming as it did so poignantly in the last week of Polly Higgins’ life. She was my dearest friend – we founded the campaign together. She was too weak by then to make public comment, but she watched and re-watched a little video sent to her by Gail Bradbrook showing the dedication ‘For Polly’. It meant the world to her. In her final days, she lived to see the concept she had dedicated 10 years of her life to spelled out across placards all over London. I remember she smiled and said to me ‘It’s all going to happen now…’ and she was right. I’m only sad she didn’t live to see the incredible progress of what she started – the ecocide conversation is now taking place on the world stage and it’s getting louder all the time.”
“This trial also vindicates the way Polly designed the campaign – to support Conscientious Protectors. It’s based on a legal document which you sign when you become a member, stating that you believe severely disrupting ecosystems should be a crime. The Earth Protectors Trust Fund document was relied on by the defendants during this trial as supplementary evidence for their deeply held beliefs.”
XR will be back at Southwark Crown Court on 30th June for a second jury trial for criminal damage at the Shell HQ building during an action in September 2020. In addition, there are a further eight crown court cases scheduled until April 2022, including that of XR cofounder Gail Bradbrook for criminal damage at the Department for Transport in October 2019, former Olympian James Brown for public nuisance after climbing on top of an airplane at London City Airport in October 2019, and three trials for nine people who stopped trains on the Docklands Light Railway in April 2019.
The trial for criminal damage during the Fire Engine at the Treasury action in October 2019 is also expected to be heard before a jury. There are also around 1000 prosecutions also preceding through the magistrates courts. 
Extinction Rebellion UK has also launched plans for a post-lockdown protest on the weekend of 26/27 June. 
Further quotes from defendants
Ian Bray, 53, Extinction Rebellion Co-founder, from Holmfirth, father of two, Quaker, and a salvage and repair worker: “Peace is a privilege I don’t have. Looking back over the last 30 years, it’s not that we have sleep-walked into this moment of consequence, it’s that we have willfully ignored the warnings. I am troubled and uncertain about the actions it seems necessary to take in order to call attention to warnings we have ignored. Yet I recognise that the impact of the trial and the two year wait bear little comparison to the burden Shell activists have suffered in other countries. The killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa cast a long shadow and highlights the cost paid by many others.”
“I am much more afraid of climate change than I am of arrest or going to jail and to use some Quaker terms, I hope I’ve lived adventurously enough to speak a small amount of truth to power and that my body has stopped the wheels turning just long enough for us to be here. It certainly feels to be what love requires of me at this time.”
Simon Bramwell 49, Extinction Rebellion co-founder, from Stroud, a bushcraft instructor who is looking after his terminally ill mother: “When we look back it will seem obvious that people had to act, when governments neglected to, the suffragettes being an obvious example. Today we face another democratic deficit, 30 years this storm has been coming, 30 years of making the climate and nature crisis worse means there is a clear and present need for citizens to disobey the state that has ignored the truth.”
“To Shell we say – your social licence is being removed, the evidence is already clear. In the future oil majors will not be able to get away with the criminal damage done to our planet Earth.”
Senan Clifford from Stroud – a 60 year old former teacher now working as a carpenter, a father of three with two stepchildren and two grandchildren – talking to the jury said in his closing statement: “I was highlighting who are the real criminals here, the consequences of thirty years of missed opportunities.”
“Shell is legally allowed to destroy the planet. I acted for my children, grandchildren, all the children – they look to us adults not doing anything. The science says we have no time to waste, there is no time for the law to catch up. Every day we don’t act drives us into a future we do not want.”
David Lambert – 62, from Stroud, father of three, a self-employed landscape consultant, said: “Until 2018, I thought the most important thing was trying to get a Labour government into power. Then my life was turned upside down by Jem Bendell and Gail Bradbrook. Extinction Rebellion made sense to me because it’s not about being an eco-warrior; it’s about love and grief and giving them power.”
“We broke the law because the law is broken. The future is being stolen from our children. Individual actions are not going to cut it, governments and businesses need to change. They need to tell the truth and act like the truth is real, to agree with the chorus of scientists calling out for action. We acted with love and grief. We acted for life.”
Sid Saunders 41, from Stroud, a father of two and a sustainable builder: “The way we have treated our only home has always mattered to me, we know we need to protect and repair the world around us, yet denial, delay and destruction continue. The climate crisis is also a human rights crisis, those with the least are suffering first and hardest, there is a moral duty on those of us who know to act, to demand the change that is needed.”
Katerina Hasapopoulous – 43 year old home educator with four children who runs a small business providing vegan meals: “I undertook this symbolic act against Shell to raise the message of their atrocities- and to highlight that there is no law to prevent them and many other companies harming our environment and that we need a law against ecocide. I felt I had a moral obligation to act, for my family and children- and that crimes against our natural world cannot continue.
“I went on to explain the reason why I was pleading guilty… I cannot afford a two week trial – I home educate 3 children, and breastfeed my 1 year old, who needs me – and was probably crying for me outside the court oom as I spoke.” (No children are allowed in the courtroom)
Tim Crosland – Ex Barrister and Director of the charity Plan B.Earth, which advances strategic legal action to tackle climate change: “Shell knew that its systematic misinformation campaign to maintain its profiteering would threaten the future of the United Kingdom and the wider international community. That makes it an act of treason. To prosecute those exposing that treason is to be complicit in that treason.”
George Monbiot – Author and Journalist: “Two years ago, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, warned about the climate crisis: ‘Every day we fail to act is a day that we step a little closer towards a fate that none of us wants’. The urgency to stop the destruction of our life-support systems is unarguable, yet governments and institutions prevaricate and delay. The Shell 7 chose to act, to peacefully demand that life on earth be protected, that our government stop funding and supporting damaging industries, that Ecocide be recognised and made a crime.”
Jonathan Porritt – Director, Forum for the Future: “Back in 2019, after decades of climate denialism and delay, Extinction Rebellion broke through the barriers to communicate just how urgently we must now address the Climate Emergency. Many deeply principled individuals felt it necessary to take non-violent direct action at some point in 2019, to speak about the truth of accelerating climate change to our politicians in such a way that they could no longer turn blind eyes and deaf ears. I commend the deep ethical foundation on which those decisions were taken, without such thoughtful, non-violent civil disobedience, politicians will always seek the easier way out, putting off until tomorrow what absolutely has to be done today. The consequences of that, for the whole of humankind, will be utterly disastrous.”
Notes to editors
 The defendants have been charged under joint enterprise of criminal damage to property (valued at over £5000) and individually face a second count of possession of an article/s with intent to destroy/ damage property.
 Stop Ecocide (https://www.stopecocide.earth/), co-founded in 2017 by barrister and legal pioneer the late Polly Higgins and current Executive Director Jojo Mehta, both advocates for and directly facilitates steps towards making ecocide a crime at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to prevent devastation of nature and so protect the future of life on Earth. It is the only global NGO with this exclusive focus.
Stop Ecocide International has an expanding network of teams around the globe, and websites in multiple languages. A growing number of ICC member states (as well as the Pope and the EU) have publicly expressed interest in an international crime of ecocide.
Polly Higgins obituary – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/25/polly-higgins-obituary
Recent media –
 Katerina Hasapopoulous pled guilty as she had a young baby and it is not allowed to have babies in courtrooms. Read her mitigation statement here.
Burning fossil fuels responsible for 8.7 million premature deaths per year – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2021/feb/fossil-fuel-air-pollution-responsible-1-5-deaths-worldwide
Smoke and Fumes 2017 – https://www.ciel.org/reports/smoke-and-fumes/
“The Court of Appeal in The Hague has ruled in favour of Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands and four Nigerians on most points in an oil pollution case that was first brought against Shell in 2008…Shell Nigeria in particular is liable for oil pollution at three locations in the Niger Delta, but according to the court, the parent company Royal Dutch Shell also violated its duty of care.”
The Hague Court of Appeal Ruling
‘Climate Responsibilities of Industrial Carbon Producers’ ‘https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10584-015-1472-5.pdf
P.162 ‘…leading investor-owned fossil fuel corporations…Shell…created the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) to oppose greenhouse gas emission reduction policies. From 1989 to 2002, the GCC led an aggressive lobbying and advertising campaign aimed at achieving these goals by sowing doubt about the integrity of the IPCC and the scientific evidence that heat-trapping emissions from burning fossil fuels drive global warming. They worked successfully to prevent the United States from signing the Kyoto Protocol after it was negotiated in 1997.’
p.167 ‘Shell project a continued high reliance on fossil energy, well above the pathway (IEA 450) that would result in a 50 % probability of keeping global temperatures below the 2 °C policy target’
“Don’t Let Shell Kill Again” is public policy video edited from two films to support the City of Berkeley’s boycott of companies doing business with Shell Oil Company because of the multinational corporation’s impact on Nigeria and for the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa with eight other environmental activists.”
Death of Ken Saro-Wiwa 13m – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9Gwf8UcgS0
‘Tort litigation against multinationals (“MNCs”) for violation of human rights: an overview of the position outside the US’
“In June 2009 Shell agreed to settle for $15.5 million, including $5 million which the plaintiffs donated to a trust to benefit the Ogoni people”
Shell settles Nigeria deaths case
“Royal Dutch Shell has agreed a $15.5m (£9.7m) out-of-court settlement in a case accusing it of complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria.”
Shell to Pay $15.5 Million to Settle Nigerian Case
“Royal Dutch Shell, the big oil company, agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle a case accusing it of taking part in human rights abuses in the Niger Delta in the early 1990s, a striking sum given that the company has denied any wrongdoing.”
Wiwa et al v. Royal Dutch Petroleum et al
“Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Wiwa v. Anderson, and Wiwa v. Shell Petroleum Development Company are three lawsuits filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel from EarthRight International on behalf of relatives of murdered activists who were fighting for human rights and environmental justice in Nigeria”
‘Shell oil spills in the Niger delta: ‘Nowhere and no one has escaped’
“The company needs to compensate the people but they must also recover the environment…”
‘Ogoni People vs Shell’
“Ogoni have faced devastating effects of the presence of Shell Oil company in Ogoniland in Nigeria since the 1950s. They also face discrimination from the Nigerian government, which favors the oil company over the local community.”
‘Ogoni King: Shell oil is killing my people’
“We are desperate people looking for justice…A community near us got a huge judgment against Shell but the appeals have taken 10 years so far. In one case it has taken a community 32 years so far to get justice.”
 Shell’s ‘Delusional’ Net Zero Strategy Commits $8 Billion to Fossil Fuels https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.desmog.co.uk/2021/02/11/shell-net-zero-oil-fossil-fuels%3famp
‘Shell continues to invest mainly in fossil fuels, despite stricter CO2’ targets’ https://netherlandsnewslive.com/shell-continues-to-invest-mainly-in-fossil-fuels-despite-stricter-co2-targets/85810/
‘Fossil fuel firms are still bankrolling climate denial lobby groups’
“Shell…still fund Alec, which misleadingly describes climate change as “a historical phenomenon…Alec promotes “model legislation” to repeal state renewable energy standards and roll back other climate and energy policies. Shell…are also members and funders of the API and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)…a leaked presentation from WSPA revealed a stealth campaign to block climate policies in California”
Shell’s legal weapon to threaten a just energy future
“Shell’s global assets are well protected by a vast network of investment treaties signed by the Netherlands, either bilaterally or as a member of the European Union and as part of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT)”
NGOs and BBC targeted by Shell PR machine in wake of Saro-Wiwa death
“Secret internal company documents from…Shell show that in the immediate aftermath of the execution of…Ken Saro-Wiwa it adopted a PR strategy of cosying up to key BBC editors and singling out NGOs…”
‘Shell Nigeria oil spill ’60 times bigger than it claimed’
“…the spill which destroyed their fishing grounds, caused long-lasting ill health and polluted fresh water sources…”
‘Shell and Nigeria have failed on oil pollution clean-up, Amnesty says’
“A detailed assessment of pollution in the oil-producing area was published in 2011 by the United Nations Environment Program, which said it will probably take up to 30 years to fully clean the area.”
 There have now been over 3,600 arrests for Extinction Rebellion actions since April 2019. Nearly 2,000 (possibly more) have resulted in minor charges (mainly Section 14 offences and Obstruction of the Highway), with around 1,000 prosecutions still in progress. Of those cases that have concluded, more than 900 have resulted in convictions. [8 – Figures are estimates based on available information]
For profiles of some of XR’s arrestees, including photographs, biographies and court statements visit our Arrestee Archive on the XR UK website. https://extinctionrebellion.uk/category/the-arrestees/
ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION
On 15 April 2019, thousands of people blocked high-profile locations across London resulting in memorable scenes, with more than 1,200 people arrested, catalysing a sea change in awareness of the climate and ecological crisis. The UK Parliament declared an emergency on 1 May, swiftly followed by a number of other countries.
A month later, in June 2019, the UK Government legislated a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, making the United Kingdom one of the first countries to do so – still too late but a step in the right direction.
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
- In the UK, come to one of our events, join the Rebellion Network and let us know how you can help out.
- Start a group where you are: in the UK or around the world.
- Find your local group.
- Check out the International XR website, with links to the French, German, Italian and UK websites.
- And while your time and energy are of most importance, if you are financially able to donate money, see our crowdfunder.
About Rising Up!
Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.