Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Judge Mary Ann Driscoll has dismissed criminal charges against protestors including Al Gore’s daughter on the grounds that their actions were necessary to prevent climate change.
Judge sets aside charges in pipeline protest
Jordan Graham Thursday, March 29, 2018
The protesters, including Karenna Gore, the daughter of former Vice President Al Gore, were facing charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace after climbing into a construction trench. On Tuesday, prosecutors asked a judge to convert the criminal charges into civil infractions, saying in the event of a conviction they were unlikely to ask for any further punishment. After allowing the motion, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll found the defendants not responsible, saying she agreed with their argument that their actions were necessary to combat climate change.
“Based on the very heartfelt expressions of the defendants who believe, and I don’t question their beliefs in any respect, who believe in their cause because they believe they were entitled to invoke the necessity defense, I’ll accept what they said,” Driscoll said.
This finding echoes a similar judgement in England in 2008, in which protestors were cleared of causing £30,000 of criminal damage because necessity defence.
Not guilty: the Greenpeace activists who used climate change as a legal defence
Six Greenpeace climate change activists have been cleared of causing £30,000 of criminal damage at a coal-fired power station in a verdict that is expected to embarrass the government and lead to more direct action protests against energy companies.
The jury of nine men and three women at Maidstone crown court cleared the six by a majority verdict. Five of the protesters had scaled a 200-metre chimney at Kingsnorth power station, Hoo, Kent, in October last year.
The activists admitted trying to shut down the station by occupying the smokestack and painting the word “Gordon” down the chimney, but argued that they were legally justified because they were trying to prevent climate change causing greater damage to property around the world. It was the first case in which preventing property damage caused by climate change had been used as part of a “lawful excuse” defence in court. It is now expected to be used more widely by environment groups.
If activists take this in my opinion ridiculous court process as a green light to interfere with fossil fuel installations, fossil fuel companies could suffer economic losses.
It might even lead to loss of life – sneaking onto active worksites, jumping into construction trenches, closing valves without warning on high pressure pipelines and scaling smokestacks is dangerous, both for the activists themselves and for any workers caught up with trying to save activists from their own stupidity.