News Walthamstow

Judge throws out contempt of court case against Walthamstow retiree

Trudi Warner, 69, could have faced two years in prison or a fine for holding up a sign informing jurors of their rights outside a trial on climate protesters, reports Marco Marcelline

Inset: Trudi Warner holding her placard, Credit: Just Stop Oil/X/Twitter, Main image credit: DAPA Images via Canva

A High Court judge described the government’s attempt to prosecute a Walthamstow woman who held up a sign on jury rights outside a climate trial as “fanciful”. 

Throwing out government lawyers’ application for contempt of court charges against Trudi Warner, 69, last week, Mr Justice Saini, said her conduct “did not amount to an act of contempt”.

The contempt of court case was sparked after Trudi had held up a sign outside a climate trial at Inner London Crown Court in March 2023 that stated: “Jurors: you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”  

Trudi was also challenging judge-imposed restrictions on the defendants that prevented them from mentioning climate change or property insulation in their defence.

As reported in The Guardian, Aidan Eardley KC told the court last week that a prosecution was necessary in order “to maintain public confidence” in the jury system’s independence. He added that Trudi’s act of holding a sign outside court would be “propagated” if she was not prosecuted. 

However, in his statement throwing out the case judge Saini said it was “fanciful to suggest that Ms Warner’s behaviour falls into the category of contempt. The category is limited to threatening, intimidatory, abusive conduct or other forms of harassment.”

Saini continued: “I reject the arguments made in the claimant’s… argument that Ms Warner confronted jurors… these submissions significantly mischaracterise the evidence.”

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After the ruling, the retired social worker told awaiting reporters that she felt “euphoric”. She said: “I thought it would just be relief but I’m actually quite euphoric because the judgement was so clear. It was a 100% win…there were no ifs, there were no buts.”

Responding to the news, Juliette Brown, a friend of Trudi’s, told the Echo: “While this has felt like an abuse of power and a huge burden on one individual, in many ways Trudi’s case has strengthened the safeguards in our legal system.”

She added: “It’s chilling that people like Trudi have to go through such trials, but reassuring to see the case dismissed and to have the principle of jury equity reiterated by the High Court.”

In the wake of the announcement last year that Trudi could be prosecuted for contempt of court, hundreds of people have demonstrated outside courts across the country with the same signs that Trudi held.

Teresa Persighetti, a retired counsellor and friend of Trudi from Waltham Forest, was one of those demonstrating outside Snaresbrook Crown Court earlier this month. She said: “I have known Trudi for five years. She is honest, reliable and committed to this campaign to draw attention to a key element of our legal system. 

“Juries make decisions based on the circumstances not just the letter of the law, like acquitting climate protestors of various offences, because their message about the climate emergency is so important. What would be the point of having a jury if jurors mistakenly believed their verdict always had to follow the judge’s instructions?”

Meanwhile, John Hall, a fellow supporter of Trudi, said: “My view is that in dismissing the case against Trudi, the judge looked at the evidence and rightly concluded that there was no case to answer.

He added that he remained concerned by the “motivation behind the Attorney General’s attempt” to charge Trudi, describing it as a move that, if successful, would have “silenced citizens exercising their legal rights”.

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