Trial begins of XR co-founder Dr Gail Bradbrook amid threat to trial by jury - Extinction Rebellion UK

Trial begins of XR co-founder Dr Gail Bradbrook amid threat to trial by jury

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

On Monday 30 October, 5 years after she stood with Greta Thunberg in Parliament Square [1A] to launch the ‘Declaration of Rebellion’, Dr Gail Bradbrook stands trial at Isleworth Crown Court for breaking a window at the Department of Transport in October 2019 – an act of resistance against the Department’s policies (such as support for HS2, Heathrow expansion and road building) in the midst of the climate and ecological emergency. The Department of Transport claims the window cost £27.5K to replace.

Dr Bradbrook, a mother of two, who holds a doctorate in molecular biophysics from the University of Manchester, is at risk of a substantial prison sentence if found guilty (the top end of sentencing guidelines is 4 years). An earlier trial of the same charge was abandoned in July [1B].

The trial comes amid mounting concerns that, following intense lobbying on behalf of the fossil fuel industry [1], the right to trial by jury is under threat for those taking direct action to expose Government lies and corporate greed. Juries, which are made up of 12 randomly selected members of the public, provide an authentically democratic test of where the boundary lies between acts of protest and the criminal law. 

Contradicting the media narrative that the public rejects the tactics of Extinction Rebellion and other such groups, out of 38 members of the movement to face jury trial to date, the majority, 20, have been acquitted. An acquittal means that a minimum of 10 out of 12 jurors (i.e. more than 80% of the jury) have found in their favour. In one case, where a guilty verdict was reached, the jury entered their verdict ‘with regret’ [2] (implying they were unaware of their right to acquit, despite the judge’s directions that no defence was available).

In consequence, measures have been taken in courts around the country to curtail the power of juries, for example by judges directing them that no defence is available, banning defendants from explaining why they did what they did or from communicating to jurors a jury’s right to acquit as a matter of conscience. People have been sent to prison just for using the words ‘climate change’ and ‘fuel poverty’ in court [3], and arrested for upholding the law [4] on a simple and truthful sign.

The UN has recently described the UK Government’s crackdown on climate protest as ‘terrifying’ [5].

It is expected that the campaign group, Defend Our Juries [6], will stage a demonstration outside the court against such measures.

The trial is expected to conclude within 4 days.

The actress Emma Thompson said: 

“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.”

Tim Crosland, from the climate justice charity, Plan B, said:

“The cumulative effect of the measures to prevent juries reaching not guilty verdicts in political trials – such as banning activists from explaining their motivations in court – is to turn jury trials into show trials: an authoritarian reality disguised by the democratic appearance of the jury’s presence to rubber-stamp the rulings of the judge. Once normalised in the context of the trials of political activists, such measures may be extended to undermine the right to trial by jury more generally. To defend the right to trial by jury is to keep lit the flame of democracy, even as others would put it out.”

Notes for editors

[1A] Greta Thunberg at Extinction Rebellion, 31 October 2018

[1B] Trial aborted and jury discharged without a verdict in XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook’s Department for Transport case

[1] “Meet the Shadowy Network Vilifying Climate Protestors”

[2] “Extinction Rebellion trial jury express regret at convicting activists”

[3] “Activists jailed for seven weeks for defying ban on mentioning climate crisis”

[4] “Big Oil Billions and The Real Cancel Culture Threatening Brits With Prison for Telling the Truth”

[5] “Human rights experts warn against European crackdown on climate protesters”


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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