Shell trial - closing speech Senan Clifford

Good Afternoon – I am here to give you my closing speech – my summing up of the case.  You have heard the Judge outline how the Law sees it, and the Prosecutor has told you their views – that you must find us guilty.  These are my comments on all the evidence – and it is the evidence you will be judging me on, and I believe that when you hear this you will see that you must find me, us Not Guilty.

First I wish to say ‘I’m Sorry’.  It’s something I have said a lot these last couple of years, since I became aware of the emergency we face. 

I am sorry - sorry that we are in such a terrible place – such an awful emergency.. things are so bad.  I am really very sorry about that.

But then I am also very sorry that I have now made you all aware of information – the dangers we are facing, the future we are heading into...  You now have to live with the knowledge that it’s not all ok.. that in fact it’s terrible, and the future we face is most probably going to be pretty grim, and very grim in fact for so many – deadly even.

That is not good news!  I’m sorry to have been the bringer of such terrible news.

But you need to know the truth, to be able to judge my actions and all the evidence in this trial.

I will start by reminding you of some of the evidence I provided, in my defence.

  • Regarding my actions on the 15th April 2019, I told you what I did – how I helped plan the action, to be as effective as possible, to get as much media attention as possible, to get as much public attention for the Rebellion it was part of as possible.  To act safely, non-violently, and responsibly, and being prepared to be arrested for my actions.
  • I have been charged with ‘criminal damage at the Shell Building...being reckless as to whether such property would be destroyed or damaged’. - but I gave evidence that I was not reckless or careless regarding the effects of my actions – I was careful, considered and took responsibility for what I did.  The prosecution have not shown any evidence that I behaved recklessly.
  • I gave evidence about how we messaged our action to highlight the contrast between our actions aiming to save lives, by doing some non-permanent graffiti, compared to Shell’s deadly, uncaring destruction of whole environments, such as in Nigeria or the Tar Sand Oil fields in Canada, asking ‘Who were the Real Criminals?’
  • The graffiti included some important public information facts about Shell’s criminal behaviours, how Shell knew about climate change, how dangerous it was, and yet covered it up and lied about it, so they could carry on drilling for more oil, to make more money – not caring about the deaths this was causing.
  • Contrasting Shell’s treatment as a pillar of society, loved by governments, a headquarters next door to parliament!, and our treatment – arrested for raising the Alarm! Yet we hurt nothing and profited nothing!
  • I told how we worked together to press the emergency button – breaking windows as the suffragettes had.. to demand a law of Ecocide to protect Life on our Planet!  A missing Law, so Shell and others are allowed to destroy the land, poison the water, pollute the air, and even kill the people living there.
  •  And the whole point of this action, and of the whole rebellion was to Tell the Truth, so that our Government would have to start to Act – and thereby we were trying to save lives.  We didn’t stand to gain anything ourselves – it wasn’t a political stunt – we are trying to save lives.


My defence that I am not guilty of a crime relies on my beliefs that there are good reasons why I needed to do these things.  That by doing this action I was doing my best in the circumstances we find ourselves in, to save lives and prevent further serious injuries to people.  And these circumstances are exceptional...

  • So, I gave evidence of how I have been aware of CO2 emissions – Greenhouse gases they were called, and the Greenhouse Effect they were causing.. overheating our earth.. in the 1990’s.
  • I have known about, and followed everything about Climate Change, as it then became, learning about the science, the effects, the dangers, and the predictions what it could cause.. for the last 30 years..
  • The prosecution accused me of ‘becoming an expert witness’ in my defence – and I think I am sort of one.. self-made..
  • I gave evidence of how our scientists – the real experts – have been calling Emergency! for 30 years.. desperately so for 20 years – and panicking for 10!!
  • I explained how serious I believed it all to be – because I believed these scientists!  These experts, thousands of them, world-wide – all saying the same thing.  Act Now!
  • The United Nations Climate Change committees and Conferences, all saying the same thing – Act Now!  They’ve been saying this for 30 years! Without success – fossil fuel gases continue to be pumped out into the air, building the greenhouse, trapping more and more heat, leading to more and more severe weather and more and more climate disasters!
  • I’d like to remind us of that Hockey-stick curve.. please can you get it from the sheets I gave you.. showing how we are now in a world our ancestors, our societies, humankind, has never had to deal with..  it shows how we are in a totally new, and very dangerous situation.  Human societies have never had to live in a world at 415ppm CO2 emissions.. and it changes everything – because it leaves us in an emergency situation!
  • It is an Emergency – that demands drastic Emergency Action. 
  • I gave evidence of all the leaders, scientists, environmentalists, experts, politicians, everyone – saying we must Act Now – That every day we delay drives us further into a future we must avoid – a future of famines, floods, wars, fires, forced-migrations.. and deaths.  Deaths of not just people, but extinction of much of all of life, animals, insects, plants, fish – everything in fact that we depend on for so much..


  • The prosecution have stated that there’s no dispute over the facts of the case, by which they mean the details of what we did on the day, though they fail to recognise why we carried out our actions or the facts behind our actions.
  • The prosecution failed to mention this Emergency – which has since been declared by our Parliament, and Councils across the country, and also by parliaments and governing authorities across the world.  They failed to recognise that the circumstances in which an act takes place determines whether that act is in fact right or wrong.
  • I gave the example in my evidence of a car being driven along a road, faster than the speed limit.  And how, without considering the full facts, this seems to be a wrong-doing.  And yet if there’s a life-threatening situation or a drastic danger occurring, or the vehicle driver is racing to save a life in an emergency, then this speeding is excusable and not a wrong-doing at all.
  • The Prosecution have neither disputed the Emergency that Climate Change poses, nor have they even considered it or the impact it has on the justifications for our actions.  That the dangers posed by Climate Breakdown necessitated and justified my attempts to save lives to the best of my abilities – which is what I was doing.
  • And notably, The Prosecution have failed to say that my evidence of the facts and dangers we face are anything but compelling!  They didn’t dispute any of them.  They didn’t say – ‘oh it’s not that bad!’  Because it is!  It is that serious!  It is that important that we do what ever we can to tackle this massive crisis – the biggest threat David Attenborough describes, that humanity has ever, ever had to face!


  • I gave evidence of the facts showing why I believed that our Normal Systems, Business as Usual ways of doing stuff has Failed to meet this Crisis!
    • Government looking after business – not people.. only worrying about getting elected, rather than solving long-term problems that might be difficult!
    • Lobbying by Big Oil, the fossil fuel companies who had knowingly got us into this crisis, - Money distorts democracy, and blocks action.
  • So I believed our Governments had failed to tackle Climate Change.  Look at the second graph, showing how emissions still rising, and nothing being done.
  • I showed evidence that our Government had failed to function properly to take care of the people, and keep them safe. This is the foundation of their responsibilities – to keep us safe. If they fail to do what is demanded to do this,  demanded by their advisors, demanded by scientists, demanded by their children, then this is evidence that they have failed to function properly.
  • I believed I had to act!     Why did I act?
    • Earth Protector – I signed to confirm my role, as a protector of something precious and vital!
    • Children’s Future – I acted for my children, my grand-children, all the children I’d taught and looked after in 18 years of teaching..  all the children – they are really asking us adults to Act!
    • And I acted for Human-kind – I believe we can do so much better!  I have learnt how wonderful people really are, especially when we work together, and look after each other
  • I was compelled to Act, to do whatever I could, to do my best..

This is my evidence..

The Judge has explained how you are to try the case according to the evidence..

I have outlined the evidence I gave during the trial, which I believe clearly shows why I feel I am not guilty – these are:-

  1. I have outlined my beliefs, and the facts that lead me to them.  (The science of climate change, and the dangers we face..) and which I sincerely believed..
  2. These are reasonable in the circumstances, and explain my actions on that day.
  3. My actions were to save lives and protect people form serious injury, and in these exceptional circumstances, were reasonable; and considering the scale of the risks, were appropriate and were not excessive!


I understand that the Judge has outlined how in the framework of the Law, I have no defence.  This relies on the understanding that we do have a functioning state.

The Judge tells us the Law is clear..

The Scientists tell us the science is clear..

Unfortunately the Law is slow to act, and the Science is moving very fast!  So whether we have a functioning state or not is immaterial.. there is no time to wait for the law to catch up – I must act now!

My belief that I am not guilty falls outside the black and white framework of the Law – the framework of what is normal, what has been normal.  Because these are not normal times any more.  We stopped being Normal when emissions rocketed 30 years ago, and especially when our governments failed to act 30 years ago, 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago as they should have done if they were functioning properly.

Either we push our governments and economies RIGHT NOW to ‘stop investing in all fossil fuel industries, directly and indirectly OR we are enabling fossil fuel companies to run our governments and economies for even more decades, allowing them to commit vast ecocides, destroying life-chances for humans  and all of nature.

These are the facts in this case, and on which you will have to decide your verdict.

You are here to judge our actions; you – not the court, nor the judge – you are the ultimate judges.. it is your decision.

You took an oath, to try the defendants and to give a true verdict according to the evidence.  A true verdict means that you make a conscious consideration of the Law, as the Judge has outlined it, that you think carefully about what he has said.. but that you then do not necessarily follow it!  It is your decision.

And I want you to remember, you are also here as representatives for all the people out there, our society.

You are here to see that they get the justice they need!  That is what Justice is..

It’s not about what the Crown needs, what Government want, what big business wants.. - it’s about what the people feel is right, is needed, based upon what they know is right; right in their hearts, in their minds, in their consciences..  what is right in your consciences – in these extra-ordinary, and terrifying times.

And you will need to be brave to listen to your selves.

You will need to listen to each other, and this will help you all to be brave – and  it is a massive responsibility, representing everyone else..  I urge you to..

- really listen to each other.. give everyone a chance and space to speak their thoughts.. and try to understand each other without jumping to judge what they say..

- take your time – it does take time, and it’s better to get it right, than to be quick!  We will all appreciate your taking time and care in such an important matter..

If you feel I have done wrong to our society, by your expectations of right and wrong – and have no doubts about this, you must be sure about it.. -  then I am Guilty.

And if on the other hand, you feel I acted justly, with right intentions, and my actions were reasonable and proportionate in these desperate hockey-stick circumstances, then I ask you to be brave and find me not guilty – not just for my benefit, but for all of us..

It’s not about a likeable cause – it’s about life and death.

It’s not about broken windows, it’s about how we face our future, or fail to do so.. as we have failed until now..  and the 1000’s that are paying, have paid for this with their lives!

Please do not be complicit in that, the largest crime of all.


Thank you.