A retired social worker who held up a sign about jurors’ rights outside a trial of climate protesters is being held in contempt of court by the solicitor general, the Guardian can reveal.
The decision to prosecute Trudi Warner, 68, came as it emerged police were separately investigating at least 12 people suspected of trying to pervert the course of justice for brandishing similar placards outside a court in London.
Warner, who held up a sign outside London Crown Court earlier this year about jurors’ rights, was told in a letter that she would be prosecuted for contempt of court by Michael Tomlinson KC, the solicitor general – a Government Minister and the Conservative MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole – confirmed by lawyers. The case will proceed before the High Court.
She protested after a judge placed restrictions on defendants in a series of climate trials, preventing them from mentioning climate change, insulation, fuel poverty or their motivations for taking action during their trials. Civil rights group Liberty called the restrictions “deeply concerning.”
Several people who ignored the judge’s restrictions were jailed for contempt of court. Amy Pritchard and Giovanna Lewis, who were both jailed for seven weeks after ignoring the judge’s decision not to mention climate change in their speech to the jury, are appealing their contempt of court convictions.
Warner, who has been a witness to some of the trials, sat outside the crown court in central London holding a sign reading: “Jurors: You have the absolute right to acquit an accused according to your conscience.” »
She was committed to the Old Bailey for contempt of court, where a High Court judge referred the case back to Tomlinson, to decide whether to pursue contempt of court proceedings or charge her with attempting to pervert the course of Justice. He wrote to Warner last Thursday to inform her that he had decided to hold her in contempt of court.
A separate investigation is underway into allegations of attempting to pervert the course of justice involving at least 12 people who stood outside Central London Crown Court in May with placards. The investigation, led by the unit responsible for breaches of public order, is only just beginning.
The 12 received letters from the Metropolitan Police’s specialist public order unit stating: “You have recently been identified as having taken part in an incident outside London Crown Court… during which you were sitting outside the court and holding a sign with the words; “The right of juries – to render their verdict according to their convictions”, in a place where witnesses and jurors attending the trials… could not avoid seeing them. »
The letter continues: “This may constitute an offense under the common law of attempting to pervert the course of justice. »
Tim Crosland, a lawyer and one of the people under investigation by the Met, said: “It’s surreal. On the one hand, it’s terrifying because this is the current situation in this country, and on the other hand, I feel like we’re revealing something true about the situation, about the extreme repression that’s happening. is going on in this country right now in terms of people holding the government to account… and the repression that is going on in the courts during the trials of people who expose the lies of the government and how desperate the state is to prevent a jury to reach not guilty verdicts in these climate cases.
The investigation was triggered after Judge Silas Reid referred 24 people to the attorney general this summer after protesting outside his court in May. The group staged a two-day protest outside central London Crown Court in May, holding placards which read: “Jurors have the absolute right to acquit an accused according to their conscience.” »
Scotland Yard said: “On Friday July 21, the Met received an allegation of perverting the course of justice relating to activities outside central London Crown Court on Monday May 15. An investigation is underway ; No arrests have been made.”
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said: “Contempt of court is a serious matter and the power to prosecute is used sparingly. When investigating questions of potential contempt, attorneys evaluate whether the evidentiary standard for the specific form of contempt is met.
“In this case, the magistrates considered the deliberate act of doing something which interferes or creates a real risk of interference with the administration of justice, and whether it is in the public interest to initiate a contempt proceedings.
“We can confirm that the Solicitor General has decided to bring proceedings against Trudi Warner in the public interest, this matter will now be a matter for the court.”