Juries understand the Crisis

Guest post by Green Christian member, Edward Gildea

An elderly priest and Ruth Jarman, Information Officer of Green Christian, were amongst the Insulate Britain protesters who were found not guilty of causing a public nuisance in January 2023. The crown court jury returned unanimous “not guilty” verdicts despite having had all their legal excuses for causing a public nuisance withdrawn by the judge.

For over a year before the war in Ukraine and the massive increase in gas prices, Insulate Britain had been calling for the UK government to fund the insulation of all social housing by 2025 and the retrofitting of all homes by 2030. They highlight the fact that, after two failed insulation initiatives, Britain has some of the most poorly insulated homes in Europe.

In this bitter winter with rocketing fuel prices, how much we all wish we had invested more in insulation! Good for our comfort and health; good for the climate and good for our pockets!

Among the four defendants was Green Christian member Reverend Sue Parfitt, an 80-year-old priest from Bristol who said she didn’t want to be treated differently because of her age and was fully prepared to go to prison. 

“Despite all the odds I am thankful that 12 of my fellow citizens were able to see the bigger picture and even when our defences were removed by the judge, they were able to understand that the unprecedented times in which we live calls for us all to step out of the box and make courageous decisions.

“Reasonable people can see that inconveniencing a few on their way to work does not compare with the appalling threat to humanity caused by the blindness, stubbornness and greed of just a few people, including our government. We must keep on doing our best, giving our all and obeying God’s calling to us.”

This was not a unique event. In April 2022 another twelve Insulate Britain protesters were praised by their judge, Stephen Leake, who was inspired by their commitment to greener living, even though he was compelled to fine them for their demonstration that disrupted the journeys of drivers on the M25.

Tissues had been passed around by a member of court staff as several broke down in tears and held their faces in their hands while fellow activists voiced their fears over the desperate environmental situation.

“They have inspired me and personally I intend to do what I can to reduce my own impact on the planet,” the judge added.

Speaking personally, I was disappointed last summer not to have been able to take part in a Greenpeace action which successfully prevented a Russian oil tanker from berthing in the Thames Estuary and was relieved to learn in November that my fellow activists were cleared of aggravated trespass. 

The prosecutor had argued the case was not about “what’s morally right” but the judge took the view that, “It’s more than likely the Russian war could be described as terrorism. In my view, the unloading of the oil was the potential offence.”

Thank goodness for our ancient jury system, which can appreciate the wider picture, the deeper issues and take a moral and ethical stand when it believes that law is not aligned with justice!

But we still face a deep dilemma. On the one hand, in the words of Antonio Guterres, “We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” 

On the other hand are governments which have been totally ineffective, showing pusillanimous leadership of public opinion. 

So what legitimate and effective avenues of protest are available to those who care deeply about the future of humanity?  If a protest is not disruptive to some degree, it will not make the news, and if it doesn’t get into the news, it will not be effective.

Suggestions please!

Edward Gildea

Edward Gildea writes magazine articles for his local church, St Mary’s, Saffron Walden in north west Essex, each month. He has kindly given permission to anyone to re-edit for your own parish newsletters. Please credit him and his church website.



Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 26 January, 2023 | Category: Church Magazine Climate Emergency | Comments: 2

Comments on "Juries understand the Crisis"

Edward Gildea:

April 26, 2023

A wise person recently described the relationship between activists and politicians. They need each other, but there needs to be a dividing line between them. The role of activists is to raise the level of urgency of an issue, giving politicians leverage. The role of politicians is to take advantage of that leverage and produce the necessary legislation. It is unwise, however, for the politicians to become activists because they will be compromised in the press. Meanwhile an activist who becomes a politician must leave their activism behind.

Dr David Greenslade:

February 13, 2023

The problem is that the story in the Gospel of Jesus being tested with a Roman coin suggests Christians should obey the law! Of course some protests are allowable but who knows what the knock on effect of traffic disruption has? This jury's acion undermines the Rule of Law and shows the muddle we are in. I totally agree with the protestor's aims but think their actions dubious at least.

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