A recent video released by members of Insulate Britain has chilled me to the bone.
Young people protesting our national lack of action on the climate emergency are not only on trial for causing disruption but are now also being arrested on charges of perverting the cause of justice for stating their motivation as part of their trial process.
How publicly stating a fact could ever meet a threshold for a case of perverting the cause of justice is utterly bewildering to me. Particularly so when five Tory MPs who used the weight of their positions to try and sway a judge in the trial of disgraced ex-MP Charlie Elphicke were simply required to apologise to Parliament!
To make this even more insulting, an ever-changing line up of of Justice Ministers over the past 10 years has presided over a breakdown in the court system, and the outgoing one – Dominic Raab – leaves whingeing about the chilling effect his recent reprimand for bullying will have on the efficient work of ministers.
An elderly XR member recently told me, with a twinkle, that “as a retired person I have the time to be arrested”. I’m not entirely sure she was joking. A tsunami of new anti-protest legislation has restricted how, where, why, how loud and how planned a protest can be depending on the whim of the serving Home Secretary. It raises the risk that by simply stating your objection to a government policy or lack of action you might find yourself in prison. Get a criminal record for expressing dissent and lose your job. There’s your chilling effect.
It sounds ridiculous – your future ruined for peaceful protest drawing attention to a recognised crisis – but that’s where we are. It feels hyperbolic to compare this situation with the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany or the recent case of Russian father jailed for his 13-year-old daughter’s anti-war drawing. We may not be guillotining protestors for dissent, but the petty, paranoid and vindictive criminalisation of an opinion or an inconvenient fact takes us a step closer to authoritarianism.
Rebecca Harrison, Exeter