Monday, May 21, 2007


The defence's closing speech - heard on Friday 18th.

The closing speech for the defence began with Ed Rees commenting on Mr Blair’s suggestion that Toby and Phil should have waited for the result of the parliamentary debate on 18th March before trying to disarm the bombers. As Ed pointed out, MP’s were not voting on a motion to invade Iraq, let alone on whether to commit war crimes – the motion was to support the decision of the government to use any means necessary to achieve the disarmament of Iraq. He asserted that one could reasonably assume parliament would not have voted to endorse the excessive destruction of civilian infrastructure nor indiscriminate bombing.
Next, Mr Rees reinforced that an acquittal in this case would not be ‘a recipe for anarchy.’ He described as ‘a narrow gateway’ the criteria determining the defences which may be raised against a charge of criminal damage. The defendants must genuinely believe that a crime is going to be committed - therefore, for example, the defence would not be open to a person acting to prevent something which, though controversial and possibly the focus of strong moral objections, is not a crime. He stressed particularly the ‘objective overlay’ that the action taken to prevent the crime must be reasonable in the circumstances – this is what the jury have to decide. In most circumstances, it is not reasonable to damage property but we are dealing here with very exceptional circumstances. Ed reminded the court that it’s been said that a jury represents the collective good sense of the community (let’s hope so – ed.) and that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, i.e. if a juror simply cannot decide, then the prosecution have not proven their case beyond doubt and that juror should therefore say ‘not guilty.’
The jury will have, to help them through the legal highways and byways, a document drawn up by both sides and approved by the judge, known as ‘Steps to Verdict’. This is a sort of flow chart channelling the jury’s decision making according to what the law actually says, though of course it is for the jurors to weigh the evidence against this. I shan’t (and probably shouldn’t) go through it all now, but maybe we can put it up here later.
Ed told the court that although the crime of aggression was not tryable (triable? well, not that either) under English law, specific war crimes are. He compared the bombing of Iraq with the blitz of Bristol in WWII, wondering how the people of Bristol would have reacted to the Germans dropping cluster bombs on them because they’re near the docks. Wouldn’t they consider it reasonable and proportionate for a German citizen to try to prevent it by disabling the bombers?
Ed reminded us that the indiscriminate destruction of a country’s civilian infrastructure is not allowed under the rules of war, nor is the sapping of a country’s morale a legitimate target. He pointed out that America is hardly short of weapons and could choose not to use cluster bombs and depleted uranium-containing munitions.
In conclusion then, in the circumstances pertaining at the time, Phil and Toby’s actions were both reasonable and proportionate weighed against the magnitude of the crime they were trying to prevent.

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