Nine women have been cleared of causing over £500,000 of criminal damage to the HSBC headquarters in London as part of protests by Extinction Rebellion.
During the protest, the women reportedly ‘shattered windows’ with ‘custom made glass hammers’ and placed stickers on the building which read ‘£80bn in fossil fuels in the last five years.’
Extinction Rebellion, also known as XR, are a global environmental movement that began in the UK and state that they use ‘non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.’
Jessica Agar, 23, Blyth Brentnall, 32, Valerie Brown, 71, Eleanor Bujak, 30, Clare Farrell, 40, Miriam Instone, 25, Tracey Mallaghan, 47, Susan Reid, 65 and Samantha Smithson, 41, all denied criminal damage and were cleared of the charge by a jury on Thursday after a three-week trial.
Sally Hobson, prosecuting, opened the case by stating that the defendants accepted that they were responsible for the damage by going to the HSBC building ‘with hammers and chisels’ and that ’ they used those tools to break the windows.’ However, the defendants denied that they cause criminal damage as it was caused during a protest and that they were lawfully justified in doing what they did.
The prosecution continued to argue ‘that whatever the purpose behind them causing the damage there was no lawful excuse for doing so.’
This case follows similar trials where juries have cleared climate protestors. In this case the jury requested additional information in order to be able to deliver their verdict, including details of the Paris Climate Agreement and what actions the British government has taken to mitigate the climate crisis.
This verdict comes amid a government proposal which considers whether police need new powers to prevent protestors from climbing and damaging war memorials.
The BBC has reported following a pro-Palestinian protest on the 15th November in London, that protestors scaled the Royal Artillery Memorial in London’s Hyde Park Corner. The memorial, which was built to commemorate soldiers who were killed in World War One, was filmed as demonstrators scaled the 30ft structure.
In a statement, the Met chief Sir Mark Rowley stated his officers recognised the behaviour to be ‘unfortunate’ but not illegal.
Specific measures reportedly being considered by the government include lowering the threshold for when police could apply for a ban to stop marches taking place.