UNITED KINGDOM: Concerns over the right to protest after woman with sign at climate trial prosecuted

Extract of article written by Sandra Laville, published by The Guardian on 19/09/2023- accessible here.

Civil liberty campaigners have warned that the prosecution of a woman for holding up a placard about the rights of jurors outside a court is part of the government’s increasing attacks on the right to protest.

Liberty said the decision to prosecute Trudi Warner, 68, for contempt of court for sitting outside a London trial holding up a sign was “concerning”.

Sam Grant, advocacy director of Liberty, called on ministers to reverse the restrictions on protest which are contained in recent legislation – in the Policing Act and Public order Act – and commit to protecting the right to protest.

The decision to prosecute Warner was made by the government’s solicitor general, Michael Tomlinson KC, a minister and the Conservative MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole.

It comes as police separately investigate at least 12 people on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice for holding up similar signs outside a London court.

Warner held up a sign in March outside Inner London crown court, where a climate trial was taking place, which read: “Jurors: you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”

She was protesting over restrictions on the defendants, imposed by the judge, which prevented them from mentioning climate change, insulation, fuel poverty or their motivations in their defence.