Climate activists celebrate lawyers saying they will not prosecute

Just Stop Oil activists celebrate ‘major win’ as more than 120 top lawyers say they will refuse to prosecute climate protestors

  • ‘Lawyers are Responsible’ declared they’ll refuse to prosecute climate activists
  • Top lawyers including Good Law Project’s Jolyon Maugham backed declaration 

Just Stop Oil activists said they were celebrating ‘a major win’ last night after a group of more than 120 leading lawyers declared they would not prosecute ‘peaceful’ climate protesters.

The eco-campaigners said the declaration could prove a useful tactic in court against prosecutors, who they could ask: ‘You have colleagues who are refusing to prosecute – why are you prosecuting me?’

As the Daily Mail revealed yesterday, a group called ‘Lawyers are Responsible’ have signed a declaration saying they will refuse to prosecute climate activists.

Top lawyers including Good Law Project founder Jolyon Maugham have backed the declaration. Other big backers include Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC, chairman of the Human Rights Institute, Michael Mansfield KC and Professor Leslie Thomas KC, although Professor Thomas said he will still abide by the ‘cab rank’ rule. 

In recent months Just Stop Oil protesters have blockaded motorways, scaled motorway gantries, and splattered Old Master paintings with soup. More than 2,000 have been arrested and 138 jailed – with trials ongoing.

Just Stop Oil activists said they were celebrating ‘a major win’ last night after a group of more than 120 leading lawyers declared they would not prosecute ‘peaceful’ climate protesters. Pictured: Activists hold a banner outside the Inner London Crown Court earlier this month

While Just Stop Oil claim to be peaceful protesters, their road protests have been accused of stopping ambulances and fire engines responding to 999 calls.

Writing in The Guardian, Mr Maugham called eco-activists ‘brave friends’ who ‘the law wrongly criminalises’.

He wrote: ‘We should not be forced to work for the law’s wrongful ends by helping deliver new fossil fuel projects. We should not be forced to prosecute our brave friends whose conduct, protesting against the destruction of the planet, the law wrongly criminalises.’

But his words triggered a backlash from legal experts and politicians yesterday. Sir Ivan Lawrence KC, who defended Ronnie Kray for murder, denounced the move, as did the Criminal Bar Association, who said it risks undermining justice.

A jubilant Just Stop Oil activist wrote yesterday: ‘Everyone involved in Just Stop Oil should be celebrating this as a major win and take a moment to enjoy it and smile. This means for those in court we can look prosecutors in the eye and say, ‘Why are you prosecuting me? You have colleagues that are refusing to do so, you should be refusing to do so as well.’

But Tana Adkin KC, vice chairman of the Criminal Bar Association criticised the declaration, saying: ‘A barrister who also brings their own personal or political views into the court is in danger of failing in their duty to represent either side independently and it is this independence that preserves the fairness of our justice system.

‘Barristers continue to accept instructions under the ‘cab rank’ rule, namely the next case to be accepted by a chambers which is a great tradition of the Bar. This ensures no matter what the offence, no matter what the person or views of the barrister, justice will be served according to the law.’

Esther Krakue (right) criticised one of the signatories, barrister Paul Powlesland, on the TV show Jeremy Vine on 5 and called protesters ‘unemployed hobbits’. pictured: (Left-right) Storm Huntley, Nina Myskow Jeremy Vine, Katie Price and Krakue on Jeremy Vine on 5

And Sir Ivan, who is vice president of the Society of Conservative Lawyers, said: ‘I am a traditionalist and my personal view is that we should abide by the ‘cab rank’ rule for all its advantages, particularly with regard to the worst kind of offences.’ He said the declaration ‘must be properly discussed and resolved by the authorities that have the power to do so’, adding: ‘So far that has not happened.’

Meanwhile TV presenter Esther Krakue criticised one of the signatories, barrister Paul Powlesland, on the TV show Jeremy Vine on 5 and called protesters ‘unemployed hobbits’. She said yesterday: ‘There’s nothing peaceful about gluing yourself to the M25 and thinking that you can’t cause serious violence… you can cause a loss of life, you can you can cause a car accident, people are just trying to get on with their normal lives.’

‘They are not unemployed hobbits that have the luxury of gluing themselves to public buildings.’

And The ‘Secret Barrister’, the best-selling anonymous author, said yesterday: ‘The day that I decide I cannot defend or prosecute somebody because of what they are accused of, is the day that I should find another profession.’

David Durose KC said: ‘My view is that this declaration – or however it is framed – is almost insulting to the Criminal Bar.’

Last night, Sir Bob Neill MP, chairman of the executive committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers, looking at the signatory list, claimed that ‘very few of them have any experience of criminal work’, adding: ‘So the likelihood they could be asked to put their money where their mouth is, is non-existent.’

The Remainer who boasted of brutal fox killing 

By Sam Greenhill, Chief Reporter 

Jolyon Maugham KC of the Good Law Project

To his worshippers, Remainer Jolyon Maugham KC is a superhero lawyer brandishing the sword of truth to hold power to account. 

His self-styled crusade wielding the law of the land ‘to protect the interests of the public’ brought him to prominence when he lobbed legal claims like grenades in a bid to stymie Brexit. 

But even his admirers have to admit that what he remains most famous for is clubbing a fox to death while wearing his wife’s satin green kimono. 

The fox had found itself snagged in Mr Maugham’s garden netting. Hungover from Christmas Day, Mr Maugham savagely beat the animal, before jauntily boasting on Twitter: ‘Already this morning I have killed a fox with a baseball bat. How’s your Boxing Day going?’ 

His 2019 tweet provoked a storm and 48,000 signed a petition demanding the Crown Prosecution Service charge him with cruelty. 

He avoided prosecution by the RSPCA after a post-mortem examination showed the fox had been ‘killed swiftly’. 

Mr Maugham apologised for the tone of his tweet but said his chickens were distressed. 

Mr Maugham, 51, has launched a string of legal challenges under the banner of the Good Law Project, his not-forprofit firm set up in 2017 to help deliver ‘a progressive society’. 

He apologised last year after his group falsely announced it had ‘won’ a court case against Matt Hancock over the appointment of Tory peer Dido Harding during the pandemic – when in fact the High Court judge had ruled the group’s case ‘fails in its entirety’. 

In fairness, the judge did rule that Baroness Harding’s appointment was unlawful, just not that it was the Good Law Project’s case that had established it so. 

He also said sorry after comparing Dominic Cummings breaching lockdown rules to ‘a man with HIV having unprotected sex’. 

He further admitted ‘I can do better’ after he was accused of casting Tories as racists for tweeting during last year’s leadership contest: ‘Do you think the members of your Party are ready to select a brown man, Rishi?’ 

Mr Maugham did not respond to requests for comment.

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