The below has been written by an XR activist in court:
Nine months in the making, and my ‘big day in court’ had finally arrived. I had been forced into spending these last crucial weeks, without a working phone and with no access to XR legal advice, the stress had begun to mount. As I counted down the hours until show time, I had an all important decision still to make. Would I chance self-representation in court, or accept the legal help from solicitors, that I was entitled?
I knew that my novice legal skills were not up to running much of a S14 (Section 14) defence, but the reality was, I had heard that there was no successful defence against this charge. Part of me delighted at the thought of self-representation. Single handedly, bravely battling the system, standing alone in righteousness. I had earned this ticket to my day in court and like other XR defendants before me, this was my moment to finally be heard. Oh how I would put the courts to shame, throwing every moral and ethical argument out there in defence of my selfless actions. How the judge and officials would weep in realisation of the ills of society and throw down their hats in condemnation to stand with me in solidarity. I would declare my position regarding environmental and ecological collapse and in full glory, I would proclaim the innocence of my name! This was going to be the day that went down in history.
It can be a very dark and bumpy ride, questioning the many thoughts and ideas in the mind of Black Cat... and as I delved deeper into the inner workings of my fancies, I started to ponder the ethical arguments of accepting assistance from the very government establishments and institutions that I was opposed! But finally, after seeking some last minute common-sensical XR advice, I decided that I would take up my lawyers on their offer of legal assistance. After all, maybe I would win on a technicality? If all else failed, at the end of the day, I could always sack my lawyer and still give the courts a fine piece of my mind.
That night I prepared my statement with vigour. Eco this and shame on you perpetrators that. But in the end, it didn’t end up quite the courtroom showdown that I had expected. The law came to judge me in a way that I never could have imagined.
I first met my lawyer on the morning of my trial. With no time to spare, we headed straight to a private room to catch a quick twenty minutes on how we were going to proceed. As I read to her my statement I had prepared the night before, the enormity of the situation struck for the first time and caused an intense feeling of overwhelming sadness. The court house, despite appearing quite stark and unassuming, carried within it’s walls a foreboding and looming presence. This was a presence that had absorbed countless impressions and stories throughout the ages and it suddenly drew from me the incomprehensible frustration, that the law that I’d always believed in, to protect the great and the good, could instead take those people and destroy their lives, holding them to criminal account forever. Then I started to cry (just a little bit), at the injustice of it all.
After a quick briefing to prepare for the witness box, we hastily made our way into court.
‘COURT RISE’. I was captivated…. who was my judge going to be? and then out came not one but three lay magistrates! I studied each of their faces closely. I could not have expected to see a crowd of more serious and stern looking expressions. Each of them bearing a tight-lipped frown with furrowed and knitted brows. They sure looked like they meant business and I was quite taken by them, captivated and fascinated in some way. I turned to my friend, “wow they look so serious”, I said. “I think they look a bit like me when I get upset”, “That’s how I’m going to look in ten years time,” I foolishly joked.
Throughout my trial, I was in complete awe of my Lawyer. What an incredible person she was. I had nothing but admiration and gratitude for her as she spoke for me with such strength and eloquence. Despite fearing I had messed up a bit in the witness box, I was quietly confident that I had made a good impression upon the magistrates. I had explained my motivations, my lifestyle, my passions and service to the community. Heck, we were even hopeful that we would win out on a technicality after all.
I felt uplifted during the deliberation. For my lifestyle choices, a conviction would not be so impactful upon my life and I felt comforted in the knowledge that of all the court testimonials I had read, they resonated to the same effect, Judges speaking highly of environmental activism and the XR defendants who had merely acted out of necessity and in line with their consciousness. I had also heard heart warming stories where activists had been told they were being found guilty with much regret, in the eyes of the law there being no way out, and ordered the most minimum of fines in full praise and goodwill.
I was excited when my three lay magistrates returned. I was fully expecting to hear the same praise for my actions, why wouldn’t I? An exemplary citizen to all outward respects. But to my surprise, I mercilessly began to hear…. Because you said this, and this, and this, ‘GUILTY’. I was ordered to pay full costs of £640 and given nine month unconditional discharge. I was speechless. I couldn’t even bring myself to read out my mega amazing, ‘I’m such a great person’ speech I had prepared.
I left the court room in disbelief, frustrated at not being fully heard, I was disappointed that no sympathies had been aroused in my judgement, nor any good seen in my deeds, none at all. I thought back to my three lay magistrates and how fearsome they looked. How they had failed to accept the reason and logic of the facts. The evidence the police had presented against me had been so unclear, that a conviction should never have been possible. But in judgement of what they had wanted to understand, they had discounted it all, failing to see the person behind it.
In the days that followed, as I tried to understand and make sense of my experience, I happened across a text and in those words I found my answer, appearing in the ‘law of three’.
*“Ever mind the law of three, What You Send Out Comes Back to Thee.” and I started to see a part of myself though the eyes of those who sat in judgement and I too began to see a person guilty. Guilty of being quick to judge others, harsh in my words, unsympathetic, cutting and direct in my approach.
I have come to accept that this wasn’t the day I was going to be a hero. This was the day I was judged by my three lay magistrates in accordance with the “law of three”, judging me as I have judged others. My lawyer asked me to go for a retrial…but I feel that until I have learned this lesson there can be no salvation. It’s a hard road, I know I am still learning from my mistakes and I am not there yet. For me this will probably be a life long practice, in cultivating compassion, forgiveness, and understanding in every moment and to all, but I am thankful I have these mistakes that I can learn from.
*The law of three states that everything you do comes back to you threefold. So please be wise and think about your actions and how they effect others.