Scottish climate activists in the dock hope to set legal precedent

Climate activists

Nine climate activists broke into Aberdeen Airport on March 3, 2009 to protest against airport expansion

Climate activists who broke into Aberdeen Airport hope to convince jury their actions were justified in preventing larger crime of runaway climate change

The trial of nine climate activists accused of breaching the peace and vandalism after breaking into Aberdeen Airport in a protest against airport expansion begins today.

The activists, who forced Aberdeen Airport to shut down for two and half hours in March 2009, say plans to expand all seventeen Scottish airports could triple the country's aviation emissions at a time when we should be cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Legal representatives will argue that their non-violent actions were justified because of the Government's failure to tackle runaway climate change and danger it poses to humanity.

Kingsnorth six

The activists are hoping to use the precedent set under English law by six Greenpeace campaigners who were cleared by a jury in 2008. The 'Kingsnorth six' had been accused of causing £30,000 of criminal damage to the Kingsnorth power station in a protest against the expansion of coal-fired plants.

They were acquitted after arguing they had a 'lawful excuse' because they were acting to protect property around the world in immediate need of protection from the impacts of climate change, caused in part by burning coal.

Environmental lawyers say another verdict in favour of climate activists by a jury could mark a shift in 'social values'.

'In the civil rights era in the United States protesters sometimes broke the law because of their moral views and were exonerated by juries. Prior to that during the era of slavery juries would sometimes refuse to convict those who helped slaves escape from their owners,' said ClientEarth CEO James Thornton.

'Environmental protests that intentionally go over the edge of the law, and which sometimes lead to the protesters being exonerated, are a laboratory where we can see society adjust to environmental facts taking place,' he added.

A statement on behalf of the nine activists said they were prepared to 'pay the price for speaking the truth' and bring justice for those detrimentally affected by climate change.

'Whatever happens to us, the Climate 9 trial is an opportunity to spread the need for urgent action and to challenge the authorities with pride and confidence,' they said.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Useful links

CASE STUDY: campaigning against climate change
She's applying the same principles to environmental campaigning as her forebears did to fighting for universal suffrage. Laura Sevier meets the founder of the Climate Rush
A Time Comes - A film by Nick Broomfield
In 2007 six Greenpeace activists attempted to shut Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent but were served a High Court injunction by a police helicopter.
Police to pay compensation to Kingsnorth climate camp protesters
Kent Police admit stop and search operation was a violation of human rights and agree to pay compensation to three protesters
How to shut down a Shell petrol station... in style
On 15th May, protesters shut down the Islington Shell petrol station for five hours in a non-violent, 'party at the pumps'. Watch the video to find out more...
How to campaign: climate change and energy
From direct action campaigns to eco-village renewable energy systems, there are many ways to learn about and get involved in actions to prevent climate change

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