Mon. May 27th, 2024

Retired priest among climate protesters referred to Attorney General

Retired priest among climate protesters referred to Attorney General

A RETIRED priest is one of 24 people who have been referred by a judge to the Attorney General for protesting outside the Inner London Crown Court.

Last week, the Revd Sue Parfitt, 81, held up signs setting out the centuries-old principle that juries can find people not guilty as a matter of conscience. Also among the group was a retired police sergeant and Olympic canoeist, Etienne Scott, 43, who won a gold medal for Great Britain at London 2012.

They were protesting against the actions of a judge, Silas Reid, who in April had ordered the arrest of Trudi Warner, 68, for holding a similar sign outside court. Her protest had also been in response to Judge Reid’s decision to prevent defendants, who were part of the environmental protest group Insulate Britain, from explaining the motivation behind their actions in court (News, 19 May).

On three occasions, defendants have defied this ban, and have argued in their closing statements that they had acted out of concern for the climate crisis. Judge Reid halted proceedings, sent out the jury, and had the defendants held in a cell for contempt of court. He has gone on to jail defendants for several weeks.

Lawyers protested outside the court during one of these contempt of court hearings. In an interview with the news website Real Media, Paul Powlesland, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, referred to Bushel’s Case of 1670, which set a precedent in English law that no jury may be coerced and that each member of a jury should be free to return a verdict according to their own conscience. The case is celebrated by a plaque inside the Old Bailey, within view of attending jurors.

Ms Parfitt, who has been arrested herself for Insulate Britain protests, told the Church Times that the placards that she and Ms Warner held were making the same point as the Old Bailey plaque, and that this was “an important one. We were just reminding the jury of their freedom to acquit based on their conscience. We feel what had happened to Trudi was a great infringement on her rights.”

She argued that the banning order by Judge Reid had forced defendants to break the oath. “Judge Reid has taken the position that people are not allowed to speak about our motivation for doing this.

“When you take the stand, you take an oath to speak the ‘whole truth’. Our motivation is a crucial part of why we are there. I’m not a hoodlum sitting in the road for the fun of it. By not being allowed to speak about our motivation for taking action, we are being asked to break that oath by the judge.”

She continued: “We are taking desperate action because we don’t know what else we can do in the face of the intransigence of this Government, which continues to explore for new fossil fuels when the science is clear that we can’t burn all the reserves we already have . . . [and] because the Government are failing to do the obvious thing of insulating Britain’s homes, which would cut wasted energy and save on bills. Jesus said: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ Not being able to tell the truth undermines our democratic rights, but also our faith.”

Judge Reid has referred Ms Parfitt and 23 other protesters to the Attorney General, Victoria Prentis. Ms Parfitt said: “It puts her in a difficult position to have to deal with something so ridiculous. I think Judge Reid has shot himself in the foot by taking such heavy-handed action.”

Ms Parfitt was also among the Christians who took part in a “slow march”, organised by Just Stop Oil, through central London and around Parliament on Wednesday of last week. The intention was to disrupt traffic to draw attention to worsening climate disasters and the Government’s ongoing search for new oil and gas.

Among the marchers was Canon Jonathan Herbert, 61, a chaplain to Travelling People, who is based at Hilfield Friary, in Dorset. He told Dorchester Nub News: “My faith calls me to act in the face of the extreme threat to life caused by our addiction to fossil fuels. To be opening a new coal mine and drilling for more oil is an extreme act of folly — and a betrayal of future generations.”

He continued: “I’ve tried protesting in so many ways over the years, but things have only gotten worse. To follow my calling as a Christian means I must stand in resistance against this government’s criminal plans.”

Other Christians who were arrested outside Parliament last week included the Revd Hilary Bond, Pioneer Priest for the parish of Wareham, in Salisbury diocese; Sophie Franklin, who is from Tewkesbury; and Ruth Jarman (Interview, 21 May 2021).

Explaining why she took part, Ms Jarman said: “As the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has said: ‘Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.’”

Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist at Christian Aid.

Source: Church Times

By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use caalaadd2@gmail.com as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of www.ethiopianstoday.com.

Leave a Reply