Jury fails to reach verdict over medics accused of JP Morgan climate protest

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A jury has been unable to reach a verdict in the trial of four doctors and two nurses who caused almost £200,000 of damage to the windows of the investment bank JP Morgan in a climate crisis protest.

The doctors, Juliette Brown, David McKelvey, Alice Clack and Patrick Hart, and nurses, Maggie Fay and Ali Rowe, had not disputed using hammers and chisels to smash the windows of the foyer of the London offices of JP Morgan.

But they pleaded not guilty, arguing their actions were justified because of the bank’s “leading role” in funding fossil fuels.

After two days of deliberations at Snaresbrook crown court, jurors were unable to reach even a majority verdict, despite being told by the judge they should disregard the “political and philosophical beliefs” that led the defendants to take part in the action.

Jurors were told to consider whether the evidence showed whether the defendants had damaged the windows at JP Morgan, and whether they intended to do so. Neither were facts in dispute.

Speaking after the outcome, Clack said: “The outcome doesn’t bring back the countless lives already lost to JP Morgan’s fossil fuel addiction in this country and around the world. But it gives an indication of the public support for medical practitioners willing to put their bodies on the line. The climate crisis is a health crisis.”

On the morning of 17 July 2022, Clack and her co-defendants had travelled together to 25 Bank Street, Canary Wharf, the glass and steel building that houses JP Morgan’s European headquarters.

They had with them a selection of hammers, chisels and centre punches, painted red and emblazoned with the words “care” and “love”, which they used to shatter eight big panes of glass around the building’s main entrance.

After causing the damage, later valued at a cost of £192,367, they donned hospital scrubs, pulled out posters and sat on the pavement in front of the damaged glass to wait for the police to arrest them.

Before the beginning of the trial, Judge Pounder had ruled that the defendants could not rely on any of the defences available under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. Yet he allowed the defendants to speak extensively on their motivations for taking part in the action.

Hart, a GP from Bristol, who represented himself, in his closing address rejected the suggestion that his and his co-defendants’ fears around climate breakdown constituted a “political or philosophical belief”.

It was “what the laws of nature dictate will happen, given the course we are presently on”, he told jurors.

He added: “I believe in my heart that my actions on that sweltering July day were right and just. This is all I need. The rest is up to you. And so it is in this same spirit of humanity that I put my trust in you, the jury. To be freely judged by my peers, by my fellow human beings, is a great privilege. Thank you.”

In a separate case, earlier this week Amy Pritchard, 38, an Extinction Rebellion activist, was jailed for 10 months after she and Stephanie Aylett, 29, Adelheid Russenberger, 32, Rosemary Webster, 66, and Pamela Bellinger, 66, were convicted of criminal damage after causing more than £300,000 worth of damage at JP Morgan’s European headquarters in 2021. Pritchard’s fellow defendants were given suspended sentences and ordered to perform a total of 330 hours of unpaid work by Judge Reid at Inner London crown court.

The Guardian has contacted the CPS for comment.

Source: theguardian.com

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