Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Guilty - The Kingsnorth Six

At a time when banks and mortgage lenders are either going belly-up or being bailed-out, hurricanes are taking their toll over Asia and India, stock markets are crashing and estate agents are going out of fashion at the rate of one a day (just how many are there?), there are indications of the beginning of a shifting consciousness - in the UK at least. People are beginning to demonstrate their concerns in unusual ways, and are beginning to vote with their conscience.

Just last week at Maidstone Crown Court an unusual and important jury verdict was declared which favoured the planet and the natural world. Six Greenpeace activists were cleared of causing criminal damage around £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station. Their defence was that their occupation of the power station prevented property damage (caused by climate change). It is a pioneering case in which preventing such property damage has been used as part of a "lawful excuse" in legal defence.

This is a vitally important step in recognising potential legal 'rights' of the planet. It also gives strength to future actions by environmental activists in advocating for the rights of species and planet. The allegation hurled at the jury after the return of a Not Guilty was that it was a "sympathy vote" for Greenpeace. But sympathy is just what is required - it is a direct manifestation of a jury recognising the need to protect our planet, and they supported Greenpeace's actions in trying to do so, deeming thier actions reasonable and urgent. As Ben Stewart stated outside court: "When 12 normal people say that it legitimate to shut down a coal fire station because of the harm to the planet, then one has to ask where does that leave government energy policy?"

(Five of the 'Kingsnorth Six' at the top of the 200m chimney)

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