Green Jury Nullification: Brits Say Eco-Terrorism OK

A green British jury has perverted an ancient legal right, using it to excuse eco-terrorism.

As The Independent reports:

The threat of global warming is so great that campaigners were justified in causing more than £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station, a jury decided yesterday. In a verdict that will have shocked ministers and energy companies the jury at Maidstone Crown Court cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage.

Jurors accepted defence arguments that the six had a “lawful excuse” to damage property at Kingsnorth power station in Kent to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change. The defence of “lawful excuse” under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage – such as breaking down the door of a burning house to tackle a fire.

The not-guilty verdict, delivered after two days and greeted with cheers in the courtroom, raises the stakes for the most pressing issue on Britain’s green agenda and could encourage further direct action.

Kingsnorth was the centre for mass protests by climate camp activists last month. Last year, three protesters managed to paint [prime minister] Gordon Brown’s name on the plant’s chimney. Their handi-work cost £35,000 to remove.

This turns the rationale for jury nullification on its head. 

Some legal thinkers say jurors in criminal proceedings have the right to acquit defendants if they believe that a conviction would be in some way unjust. Thomas Jefferson suggested as much when he wrote, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

But nullification has traditionally been used when a government has prosecuted under a law deemed unjust, not to excuse common vandalism.

Does this mean it’s now acceptable for enviro-terrorists to attack whatever building or site they blame for global warming?

Even more frighteningly, will this madness spread to America?

(For more on eco-terrorism, read “Eco-Terrorism: When Violence Becomes An Environmentalist Tactic,” by John Berlau, Organization Trends, February 2007.)

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