Trial aborted and jury discharged without a verdict in XR cofounder Gail Bradbrook’s Department for Transport case - Extinction Rebellion UK
Gail Bradbrook at Isleworth Crown Court by Gareth Morris.

Trial aborted and jury discharged without a verdict in XR cofounder Gail Bradbrook’s Department for Transport case

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Media assets: Imagery of Gail outside court | DfT action videos | DfT action stills 

As deadly temperature records are set daily, the silencing of those that would speak truth to power can be felt. And it’s chilling.

There has been a pattern in recent climate protector trials where defendants are told they don’t have a defence in law, that anything they want to say in their defence is inadmissible and irrelevant and that they can’t inform the jury of the jury’s long-established right to make decisions based on their conscience. Moreover, people are threatened with imprisonment, and sometimes even imprisoned, if they do.

The trial of Dr Gail Bradbrook

The long-postponed jury trial of Dr. Gail Bradbrook, cofounder of XR, for breaking a window at the UK’s Department for Transport – supposedly valued at £27.5k – in October 2019 [1] began sitting on Monday this week (17 July). [2]

On Tuesday Judge Martin Edmunds dismissed the jury and  aborted the trial. He has now set a retrial for the week commencing 30 October, which is scheduled to last for four days instead of five. This means that the retrial is fortuitously set to take place during the fifth anniversary of the Declaration of Rebellion [3] on 31 October 2018 and Extinction Rebellion’s first major action. [4]

We are not allowed to give further details due to reporting restrictions which are now in place.

Before the trial Gail said: “I’m trying to protect the lives and the futures of my children, all the children in the world and the generations to come.”

Gail, a mother of two who holds a doctorate in molecular biophysics from the University of Manchester, potentially faces up to four years in jail if found guilty for the Department for Transport action, which aimed to get the government to take adequate and appropriate action on the climate and nature emergencies. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge of criminal damage arguing that while she did break the window, she did it as an act of conscientious protection – a concept not yet recognised in current law.

The silencing and imprisonment of climate protectors

The Conservative government’s legislative clampdown is placing severe limits on the right of protest [5] [6]. 

Furthermore, since February 2023, three climate protectors have been jailed for six to eight weeks – just for mentioning the words climate change or fuel poverty to a jury, when attempting to explain why they undertook their actions. [7] [8] [9]

Gail’s trial was postponed several times across four years to take account of various rulings, notably including the Colston statue case, which alongside other rulings rendered specific legal defences to be no longer valid, thus an excuse for the court systems to silence protestors. [10] [11]. There has been a pattern of jury acquittals in direct action cases, which have embarrassed the government and enraged certain sections of the press. [12]

“Juries must be allowed to have the evidence regarding current law, as well as the wider context,” added Gail. “On this basis, they may serve justice rather than power, by asserting their right to reach a verdict based on their conscience. 

”It is now common in the trial of climate protectors for the judge to rule that defendants are not allowed to speak about their motivations in court, denying them the right to a fair trial, an absolute right under the Human Rights Act.”


Actress Emma Thompson: “In the same way we honour the women who broke windows to gain the vote, so we will honour the people who break windows in order to gain real action in the face of deadly climate collapse.

“People who risk losing their freedom for the sake of other humans and for the protection of all future generations are not criminals but heroes.”

Cathy Eastburn, a supporter of XR, Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain, who has spent time in prison as a result of her nonviolent direct action to sound the alarm and instigate action on climate change: “Juries regularly acquit protectors if we are able to explain our motivations and the context for our actions. The government and the courts have responded by eroding trial by jury – a highly valued central tenet of our legal system – by stealth. We are being silenced and no longer have the right to defend ourselves, nor to a fair trial. And if we stand up for ourselves against the dictates of the court, we are sent to jail.”

Kofi Mawuli Klu, Co-vice-chair, Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe: The former colonies look up to the UK’s justice system regarding it as the gold standard. These ‘show trials’ of climate protectors are permanently damaging the reputation of the UK in the majority world. The UK must practise what it preaches, and preserve the right to a fair trial – as well as deliver on its climate change commitments.”

Gail Bradbrook and Extinction Rebellion

Gail Bradbrook co-founded Extinction Rebellion in 2018 after a period of research, preparation and network building. 

A mother of two teenage boys, she holds a doctorate in molecular biophysics from the University of Manchester, alongside several prizes and awards for her undergraduate degree, including the Royal Society of Chemistry’s best chemist award and a Wellcome Scholarship. She was named by GQ as one of the most influential people in Britain and honoured in the BBC Woman’s Hour Power List 2020: Our Planet – celebrating UK women making a significant contribution to the health and sustainability of the environment. 

After XR’s first rebellion in April 2019, the UK parliament declared a Climate and Environment Emergency, but the government has subsequently failed to act with the necessary urgency. The government is now making things worse by licensing new oil, coal and gas developments that are incompatible with a 1.5C world [13] [14]. XR is now a global movement using nonviolent civil disobedience to put pressure on institutions to act on the climate and nature emergencies. In April this year, XR UK joined forces with over 200 organisations to bring 100,000 people together outside the UK’s parliament across four days to demand an end to the fossil fuel era, implement emergency citizens assemblies and reparations. [15]

Notes for editors:

[1] Extinction Rebellion disrupt UKs Department for Transport – where is the plan to meet a net zero target and halt biodiversity loss?

[2] Extinction Rebellion protestor ‘caused £27,000 worth of damage to government building’

[3] Declaration of Rebellion, Extinction Rebellion 2018

[4] 15 environmental protesters arrested at civil disobedience campaign in London

[5] UN rights chief urges UK to reverse ‘troubling’ Public Order Bill

[6] Liberty launches legal action against home secretary for overriding parliament on protest powers

[7] Insulate Britain activist jailed for eight weeks for contempt of court

[8] Activists jailed for seven weeks for defying ban on mentioning climate crisis

[9] Protesters must be allowed to explain motives in court

[10] Extinction Rebellion co-founder’s trial delayed by Colston review

[11] Extinction Rebellion protester to face trial after Court of Appeal ruling

[12] The Stealth Undermining of Trial by Jury

[13] New fossil fuels ‘incompatible’ with 1.5C goal, comprehensive analysis finds 

[14] Lord Deben backs Labour’s plan to halt new North Sea oil and gas drilling

[15] The Big One: Our Collective Demand

About Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

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Time has almost entirely run out to address the climate and ecological crisis which is upon us, including the sixth 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, leading to societal collapse and mass loss of life. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

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