Trial Round Up: Day III
Day 3: a sad day for J McDiz
By this point we’re all relatively relaxed about the whole shebang – I’ve sussed the cycle route to Willesden and everything. The last day of evidence was started with Eddy, followed by the Welsh contingent – Rich, Kara and Bec.
Sassy McGhee is doing his darndest now to prove that there was an ‘inception period’ between the perceived threat and the action that we took to prevent death and serious injury from air pollution and climate change – both requisites of the necessity defence we are running.
His questions seem bizarre, and by this point we’re all tired of the rigmarole of the line of enquiry – everyone is getting bored of being asked (and hearing the response to) “but do you know anyone there? [insert name of Pacific island/developing state/Heathrow village]”.
Of course when it comes to climate change it shouldn’t matter whether or not you know anyone personally – surely basic human compassion motivates you sufficiently to want to prevent people dying in droves, both now, and in the future from vector borne diseases, extreme weather events, and respiratory illnesses.
Yet another example of how the law is archaic, and a reminder that laws never get changed unless you break them.
Eddy spoke mainly on this topic – about our interconnectedness and how he didn’t see a reason for us to know personally anyone affected by climate change. Besides, we’re all affected by climate change; it’s just an unquantifiable set of effects…
Kara has used her work as an outdoor educator and environmental journalist to inform her activism, and she came across as a reasonable and well-informed person.
When asked by the judge, she said she had intended to stay there for as long as possible and stop “hundreds of planes”. Following this, the public got an unintended insight into the preparation and considerations that go into an action like this – when asked how we would attend to basic necessities such as going to the toilet, Kara responded (after flashing a sheepish grin at her giggling co-defendants) that “we were wearing nappies, Madam”. Laughter in the gallery >> The press association reporter scribbling >> Instant quote in the Guardian = WINNER.
It’s a serious point though:
“A day of discomfort is a very small price I’m willing to pay. We live a life of privilege in the UK, compared to people in the global south who face the prospect of death and destruction of their homes every single day from climate change.”
Six hours on a runway not weeing is small change in the grand scheme of things.
Rich has trained in law and despite being pretty snotty managed to beast his evidence. He started with a killer line slating the (lack of) international environmental law:
“It was in the last year of my law degree, when I took a module on international environmental law. The lecturer said that essentially there is no international environmental law, or at least none that’s worth the paper it’s written on.”
Rich has worked on consultations and policy professionally, and his experience is impressive. I think the judge thought so too.
I think McGhee started getting tetchy with Rich’s use of semantics on the topic of motivations, straying into the territory of neuroscience. He outsassed him with “Luckily we do not have to worry about what a neuroscientist might say, Mr. Hawkins”, a comment made all the more hilarious by the fact that one of Rich’s character references comes from a neuroscientist. Ah, what larks.
Last up was Bec, whose calm and collected manner was brilliant to underline the defence that our actions were reasonable and proportionate, never mind the fact that we “don’t know the names and addresses” of the 300,000 people who died last year as a result of climate change.
And so. That concluded the defendants’ evidence. The expert report of Alice Bows-Larkin had been agreed by the prosecution, so she was not required to give evidence live: it seems to me like they are all under pressure to reduce the media impact of this, and to make it go away quickly. Live evidence is much more powerful and attracts way more attention than evidence submitted in hard copy, even if it is read out in court.
The defence barristers read some key passages from the expert report, such as, to summarise:
- Heathrow contributes around 48% of the CO2 produced by domestic and international flights associated with the UK.
- Aviation’s climate effects are significantly higher than the emissions figures suggest because at the altitude that they fly at, the radiative forcing of pollutants is higher
- Significant barriers exit to decarbonisation in the aviation sector: the only option to reduce emissions from aviation is essentially to reduce demand.
- Crucially, for our defence: “The IPCC state that if climate change continues as projected in line with their Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP), the major negative changes to health compared to a no climate change future will include (inter alia):
- “Greater risk of injury, disease, and death due to more intense heat waves and fires (very high confidence)”
- “Increased risk of undernutrition resulting from diminished food production in poor regions (high confidence)”
- “Increased risks of food- and water-borne diseases (very high confidence) and vector-borne diseases (medium confidence)”(p713)”
Local residents’ testimony was read next. Bryan’s asthma has been worsening as a result of exposure to pollutants from the airport. His garden backs onto the airport and he says he can smell burning rubber outside. He has to stay inside the house and the noise causes him serious stress.
Marina’s statement detailed the effects of pollution on her health, which requires her to use medical oxygen. She notices a pronounced difference in her respiratory health when she leaves West London.
Phil has a 99% blockage in one artery, which he says is caused by stress and air pollution. His doctors have advised him to move from Harmondsworth where he has lived for 42 years.
This evidence was moving enough when passages were read and summarised by the barristers. One can only imagine what wonders it would have done for our defence had the witnesses been permitted to speak live.
The next bit was unexpectedly lovely and made me feel really proud. All of our references of good character were read and summarised for the court, and it made me immensely happy to be part of such a solid crew of passionate, talented, dedicated and wholly good people.
Hearing quotes read from my own statements gave me goosebumps to think that people I know and love have such respect for me, and that the same is true for all the other hooligans. Serious love. If I wasn’t such a hardass I probably could’ve shed a little tear.
The final battle was to get John McDonnell’s statement agreed by the prosecution – we’d already accepted that he wouldn’t be allowed to come to court to give evidence live. McGhee argued relentlessly that it wasn’t admissible or relevant and the judge agreed on the grounds that it didn’t help her decide on the issues she has to decide on: “Did the defendants honestly hold a reasonable belief that what they were doing was necessary to protect life and limb?”
Judge Wright attempted to persuade cunty McGhee to agree his statement, suggesting that the defendants might feel “aggrieved” were his evidence not to be heard.
However, he showed his true colours with his retort: “While I have some sympathy as a person for that argument, as the Prosecution lawyer I have none…End of story.”
Just remember kids: lawyers aren’t people. Straight from the horse’s mouth.
The final (incredible) thing that Judge Wright added was that despite not allowing J McDiz to give evidence in person, “I would say to the defendants, in respect of what you wanted him to say, you’ve already won.”
I’m continually surprised and amazed at the level of comprehension and sympathy we’re getting from a figure of establishment like DJ Wright (great stagename, btw: this alter ego is definitely well acquainted with my m8 Mandy on a weekend. That might be a you-had-to-be-there joke… soz). It’s all reinforcing the notion in my head that we are actually contributing to change – and that we’re merely ahead of the game in pushing for justice and testing the boundaries of the legal system.
So. That’s it. It’s all over – except it’s not. Sentencing happens on Monday 25th January at some point after 2pm, giving time for closing submissions from the prosecution and defence in the morning.
If you can come down and support, there’s an event here. It’s basically a foregone conclusion, but come and wave goodbye to our liberty with us regardless!