Protester committed contempt by holding sign for jurors to see, High Court told

The Solicitor General wants to bring proceedings against Trudi Warner after she held up a sign outside a court during a trial last year.

Callum Parke
Thursday 18 April 2024 15:21 BST
Trudi Warner outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday (Callum Parke/PA)
Trudi Warner outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday (Callum Parke/PA)

A protester committed contempt of court by “deliberately targeting” jurors by holding up a sign outside a court ahead of a trial of climate activists, the High Court has heard.

Trudi Warner was arrested on March 27 last year for holding up a sign outside an entrance used by jurors at Inner London Crown Court before a trial involving members of the climate group, Insulate Britain.

The sign read: “Jurors you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”

Lawyers for the Solicitor General Robert Courts, a senior government legal officer, are now asking the High Court for the green light to proceed with legal action against Ms Warner for contempt of court due to her “serious interference” with the “administration of justice”.

I felt it was really important to get the word out directly that there is a higher authority than judges

Trudi Warner, protester

Barristers for Ms Warner, a retired social worker from Walthamstow, east London, argue her actions do not constitute an offence and that it is not in the public interest to take legal action against her.

In his written submissions, Aidan Eardley KC, representing the Government, said Ms Warner “deliberately targeted” jurors and encouraged them to “approach their task in a particular way”.

Speaking in court on Thursday, he said the incident was “a confrontation with jurors, calculated objectively, and intended subjectively, to tell them how to go about doing their job”.

He added that the “public needs to know” that they could perform their role as jurors “without being bombarded with instructions from bystanders about how they go about that task”.

Ms Warner was seen on CCTV outside the court for around half an hour on the morning of March 27, the first day of the trial, but did not speak to any members of the public.

Later that day outside the same court, she joined a protest over how the judge in the trial, Judge Silas Reid, had overseen previous trials of other Insulate Britain protesters.

Judge Reid had previously instructed jurors to decide the case according to the law and evidence and set aside any views they might have about climate change.

Mr Eardley said that while Ms Warner’s sign was “inaccurate as a matter of law”, her actions still constituted an offence and there was a “strong public interest” in taking legal action against her.

He added on Thursday that Ms Warner said at the time: “I felt it was really important to get the word out directly that there is a higher authority than judges.”

The Attorney General’s Office announced its decision to take legal action against Ms Warner last September, which prompted hundreds of people to hold similar signs outside courts across the country in solidarity.

Several protesters held placards outside the Royal Courts of Justice again on Thursday.

Ms Warner’s barristers told the court that she acted as a “human billboard” to advertise a “vital constitutional, if occasionally used, safeguard against unjust prosecutions”.

Lawyer Clare Montgomery KC said: “The solicitor general has placed before the court an entirely false picture of what was taking place.

“At no stage did Ms Warner direct, instruct, cajole or try to persuade any juror to disobey a direction of the judge.

“The sign she had said what it said and did no more.”

“It cannot in any circumstances give rise to any species of contempt,” she added.

Mr Justice Saini said at the end of the hearing that he would give his judgment at 10.30am on Monday.

Speaking to supporters outside court, Ms Warner said: “I can’t say anything. I am only allowed to say thank you.

“I don’t have to come on Monday, but I will, because I think I should be the first to know.”

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