Edward Colston statue pulled down

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by dyqik » Fri Jan 07, 2022 2:55 pm

lpm wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 2:45 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 1:35 pm
I don't think that the verdict is perverse.

But the protestors clearly got off because the jury sympathized with their cause. I'm fine with that as one of the reasons for having trial by jury is that in exceptional circumstances people can be acquitted even though they have clearly committed a crime. Juries are supposed to be able to bring in what they consider to be natural justice rather than administer the law.
Er... that's the very definition of a perverse verdict.

It's when a jury reckons the defendant is guilty per the letter of the law, but considers the spirit of the law or natural justice to be more valuable than the letter of the law.
The letter of the law includes the exceptions to the law given by common law and the other considerations the Secret Barrister lists. No law stands alone, or can be viewed in isolation.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by monkey » Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:17 pm

dyqik wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 2:55 pm
lpm wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 2:45 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 1:35 pm
I don't think that the verdict is perverse.

But the protestors clearly got off because the jury sympathized with their cause. I'm fine with that as one of the reasons for having trial by jury is that in exceptional circumstances people can be acquitted even though they have clearly committed a crime. Juries are supposed to be able to bring in what they consider to be natural justice rather than administer the law.
Er... that's the very definition of a perverse verdict.

It's when a jury reckons the defendant is guilty per the letter of the law, but considers the spirit of the law or natural justice to be more valuable than the letter of the law.
The letter of the law includes the exceptions to the law given by common law and the other considerations the Secret Barrister lists. No law stands alone, or can be viewed in isolation.
Which is why Woodchopper was wrong when he said "clearly committed a crime". As far as I understand it, a perverse verdict would be when the law doesn't allow the argued exception, or the jury believes the defendant didn't meet the criteria for them, but acquits anyway. That's not what happened here.

The defendants clearly chucked a statue in the river, but it was not clear that this was criminal.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Woodchopper » Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:26 pm

monkey wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:17 pm
dyqik wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 2:55 pm
lpm wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 2:45 pm

Er... that's the very definition of a perverse verdict.

It's when a jury reckons the defendant is guilty per the letter of the law, but considers the spirit of the law or natural justice to be more valuable than the letter of the law.
The letter of the law includes the exceptions to the law given by common law and the other considerations the Secret Barrister lists. No law stands alone, or can be viewed in isolation.
Which is why Woodchopper was wrong when he said "clearly committed a crime". As far as I understand it, a perverse verdict would be when the law doesn't allow the argued exception, or the jury believes the defendant didn't meet the criteria for them, but acquits anyway. That's not what happened here.

The defendants clearly chucked a statue in the river, but it was not clear that this was criminal.
Yes, I was thinking of 'perverse' in its general meaning (unreasonable or unacceptable) rather than the specific meaning that you and lpm refer to.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by lpm » Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:46 pm

I think we've very very very safe in assuming the jury didn't actually believe the defendants believed chucking a statue in the river would increase its value. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the statue was an indecent display. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the statue was about to commit a crime like a Hawk fighter about to murder children in East Timor. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed they owned the statue. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the owners of the statue wanted it chucked in the harbour.

And I don't think any of you actually believe the jury actually believed the defendants believed any of these things either. Due to the fact that, you know, not all of you are complete morons.

Everyone in the game is just pretending to believe things they don't actually believe in order to get the outcome we want.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by monkey » Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:48 pm

@Woodchopper, It's called jury nullification in the US, which seems harder to less specific about.

Also, I agreed with your general point - Laws should have exceptions and thresholds, and juries should be able to acquit for whatever reason they see fit, as the alternative would be worse.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by lpm » Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:50 pm

The wiki is quite interesting on the history. I'd forgotten the Clive Ponting case.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Jan 07, 2022 4:09 pm

lpm wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:46 pm
I think we've very very very safe in assuming the jury didn't actually believe the defendants believed chucking a statue in the river would increase its value. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the statue was an indecent display. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the statue was about to commit a crime like a Hawk fighter about to murder children in East Timor. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed they owned the statue. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the owners of the statue wanted it chucked in the harbour.

And I don't think any of you actually believe the jury actually believed the defendants believed any of these things either. Due to the fact that, you know, not all of you are complete morons.

Everyone in the game is just pretending to believe things they don't actually believe in order to get the outcome we want.
Surely by the standards of today a statue of a racist human trafficker is indecent? While the word makes me think of pearl-clutching old folks tutting about miniskirts, it's clearly meant to refer to things that would cause shock/outrage/upset in a public place, which the Colston statue evidently had for decades. Not much of a stretch to understand why it could be considered abusive either.

I expect expert witness Professor David Olusoga was eloquently persuasive when he argued that point.

As for owner's consent - it's a public statue, owned by the public, and the public wanted it down. The council were dragging their heels, but that doesn't mean people can't help themselves. If I fix a park bench or fill in a pothole it wouldn't be criminal damage either.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by noggins » Fri Jan 07, 2022 4:16 pm

Funny thing is, tory ire at this sort of thing is going to egg juries on to be perverse.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Jan 07, 2022 4:28 pm

Yes, and you only need 3 dissenters for a hung jury, so even a few perverse jurors can make a difference.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by dyqik » Fri Jan 07, 2022 5:19 pm

lpm wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 3:46 pm
I think we've very very very safe in assuming the jury didn't actually believe the defendants believed chucking a statue in the river would increase its value. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the statue was an indecent display. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the statue was about to commit a crime like a Hawk fighter about to murder children in East Timor. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed they owned the statue. And didn't actually believe the defendants believed the owners of the statue wanted it chucked in the harbour.

And I don't think any of you actually believe the jury actually believed the defendants believed any of these things either. Due to the fact that, you know, not all of you are complete morons.

Everyone in the game is just pretending to believe things they don't actually believe in order to get the outcome we want.
You seem to be positing that the jury are all morons, and couldn't understand the legal arguments put before them, or evaluate them objectively as they were sworn to do. That's a massive piece of prejudice on your part.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by JQH » Fri Jan 07, 2022 5:24 pm

Atilla the Stockbroker made the interesting point that the people whinging about the statue of Colston being pulled down were more than happy to see statues of Stalin pulled down in 1989 (and statues of Saddam Hussein in 2003).
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by monkey » Fri Jan 07, 2022 5:34 pm

JQH wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 5:24 pm
Atilla the Stockbroker made the interesting point that the people whinging about the statue of Colston being pulled down were more than happy to see statues of Stalin pulled down in 1989 (and statues of Saddam Hussein in 2003).
They seem oddly quiet about the Nursultan Nazarbaye one yesterday though.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by lpm » Fri Jan 07, 2022 6:14 pm

dyqik wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 5:19 pm
You seem to be positing that the jury are all morons, and couldn't understand the legal arguments put before them, or evaluate them objectively as they were sworn to do. That's a massive piece of prejudice on your part.
You muppet. I'm positing the opposite. That the jury understood the legal arguments, rejected them for being silly and delivered the correct verdict nonetheless.

You, on the other hand, seem to be prejudiced against these jurors and think they're morons who believed stuff that was barely delivered with a straight face.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by dyqik » Fri Jan 07, 2022 6:31 pm

lpm wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 6:14 pm
dyqik wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 5:19 pm
You seem to be positing that the jury are all morons, and couldn't understand the legal arguments put before them, or evaluate them objectively as they were sworn to do. That's a massive piece of prejudice on your part.
You muppet. I'm positing the opposite. That the jury understood the legal arguments, rejected them for being silly and delivered the correct verdict nonetheless.

You, on the other hand, seem to be prejudiced against these jurors and think they're morons who believed stuff that was barely delivered with a straight face.
Oh, ok. You're positing that the defense lawyers and judge don't take the right to protest, whether a prosecution is proportionate, or the other laws that the defense raised seriously.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by lpm » Fri Jan 07, 2022 6:37 pm

Perhaps you're too devoted to science and the more orderly processes there?

The defense lawyers play with home advantage - and don't need to play fair in the same way that prosecutors do. As Disco said, why not throw stuff out there and see if the jury wants to pick it up. A jury trial is not about ordered legal rationality.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by wilsontown » Fri Jan 07, 2022 6:38 pm

I mean, we literally do not know anything about why the jury came to the conclusion it did. So erecting narratives about whether or not they're a bunch of morons seems a pointless exercise.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by lpm » Fri Jan 07, 2022 6:49 pm

We can apply the man on the Clapham omnibus test. Simply assume the jurors are ordinary and reasonable people, reasonably educated and intelligent but nondescript.

Which leads us to expect the jurors weren't morons believing silly stuff about indecency, but ordinary people who appreciate the value of justice.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Jan 07, 2022 7:00 pm

Is it just me who thinks the defence made some good points then?
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by lpm » Fri Jan 07, 2022 7:18 pm

I'm sure we can all pretend to each other the defense made some good points.

The real test comes if we still think they're good points if applied by Tory scum to things we like.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Jan 07, 2022 7:30 pm

But the specifics of the case are so unusual I'm really not convinced they could easily be applied elsewhere.

There are not many things similar to slavery. It's universally recognised as abhorrent and has been illegal for nearly 200 years. It also had millions of victims, many of whose descendents now live in the UK.

There are also not many things similar to racism.

I think you'll struggle to come up with an example of anything "we like" that has the relevant characteristics.

This case certainly doesn't set any kind of precedent for destroying statues/art in a general sense. It will be setting precedents for how the UK deals with the legacy of slavery.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Fri Jan 07, 2022 8:32 pm

Vigilante manslaughter/murder of a paedophile, for instance, might do it.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Jan 07, 2022 8:37 pm

Which of the defence's arguments could be used for a murder or manslaughter charge?

I think the list of exceptions for killing a person is probably a bit different to the list of exceptions for committing criminal damage.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Fri Jan 07, 2022 9:05 pm

The 'technically guilty but morally innocent' have been acquitted before. BoaF has already linked to these articles and I linked to this collection. To summarise for those who avoid links (in chronological order):

1996
The Ploughshare Four - Angie Zelter, Joanna Wilson, Lotta Kronlid, and Andrea Needham - used hammers to cause £1.5m of damage to a recently built multi-purpose Hawk which has been destined for Indonesia where it was most likely to be used against civilians in East Timor. They claimed their actions were reasonable under the Genocide Act and because they used reasonable force to prevent a crime. The jury found them not guilty. Three years later the British government admitted that "British-made jets were being used by the Indonesians to intimidate the people of East Timor".

BoaF's article ends by saying that "The judgment.. will have repercussions in international jurisprudence and diplomacy". Yet this piece from 2017 notes that,
20 years on from the Ploughshares case, Britain is still very successful at selling arms abroad. In the latest figures published by the Department of Trade and Industry, the UK is said, to be the second largest global defence exporter on a rolling ten-year basis.
It seems those 'repercussions' were limited.

1999
Rosie James and Rachel Wenham swam to a Trident submarine docked in Barrow-in-Furness, painted "illegal" and "Death Machine" on it, put a banner saying "Women Want Peace" over the conning tower and damaged equipment. They were accused of causing £25,000 of criminal damage. The first trial was halted because of screw-ups by the prosecution (my editorialising). The second trial found them not guilty of criminal damage but couldn't come to an agreement on the main charge of disarming radar-testing equipment.
The jury were only allowed to consider the very narrow grounds of defence of necessity and self defence allowed under English law, the judge having ruled out defences based on international law... [making] the extraordinary statement that “crimes against humanity are not crimes in English law
A third trial followed and the jury, again, were unable to reach a verdict.

(Scotland) - Angie Zelter, Ellen Moxley and Ulla Roder were charged with causing £80,000 of damage to a Trident-related acoustic barge. They argued that they had exercised their legal right to prevent a crime as Trident could not be used in a way that was lawful under international law, and that while their actions were "willful, they had not been malicious". The sheriff agreed and instructed the jury to acquit the women, which they did. Interestingly, the Lord Advocate said he intended to refer the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal due to the decision, in a move reminiscent of that by the Attorney General today. The clarification can be seen here (I haven't read it, it's really long!).

2001
Sylvia Boyes and River entered a dockyard with the intention of disarming a Trident submarine with an axe. "They denied criminal damage, claiming their actions were justifed because nuclear weapons were immoral and illegal under international law." The judge told the jury that "ideals formed no defence against a criminal damage charge" yet they decided to acquit them anyway.

Lord Melchett (executive director of Greenpeace, not the one from Blackadder) and 27 other protestors admitted destroying GM crops "but said that acting to prevent pollen from the genetically-modified maize from polluting neighbouring organic crops and gardens". The jury acquitted them.

2007
Toby Olditch and Philip Pritchard broke into an RAF site in 2003 - the day before bombing in Iraq began - with the intention of clogging the engines of US B52 bombers. They pleaded "not guilty... to conspiring to cause criminal damage, claiming the B52s would have been used to commit war crimes in Iraq." They had been tried the year before but the jury failed to reach a verdict. The second time round the jury acquitted them of all charges.

2008
Ben Stewart, Will Rose, Kevin Drake, Tim Hewke, Huw Williams and Emily Hall were accused of causing £30,0000 of criminal damage at a coal-fired power station.
The activists admitted trying to shut down the station by occupying the smokestack and painting the word "Gordon" down the chimney, but argued that they were legally justified because they were trying to prevent climate change causing greater damage to property around the world. It was the first case in which preventing property damage caused by climate change had been used as part of a "lawful excuse" defence in court.
The jury acquitted them by a majority verdict.

2017
Rev Daniel Woodhouse and Samuel Walton broke into site owned by BAE systems with the intention of disarming Tornado jets being used by Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen. They did not succeed, being stopped by security. Both admitted to their actions and their intent, arguing that they acted "for the greater good"*.
A district judge in Burnley accepted their beliefs were sincerely held and found them not guilty.
2019
Roger Hallam sprayed the walls of Kings College, London, with the words “divest from oil and gas” in protest against its fossil fuel investments. He did not deny causing criminal damage estimated at £7,000 but argued that "his actions were lawful because there was an exemption in the Criminal Damage Act that permits damage if it protects others’ property." While the judge ruled that the issue of climate change was “irrelevant” to the case, the jury still acquitted him of all charges.

2021
Simon Bramwell, Ian Bray, Jane Augsburger, Senan Clifford, David Lamber, and James “Sid” Saunders were accused of causing criminal damage to Shell's London headquarters. They argued that their actions were a "necessary" and "proportionate" response to the harm caused by Shell.
Judge Gregory Perrins directed jurors that even if they thought the protesters were “morally justified”, it did not provide them with a lawful excuse to commit criminal damage.
Despite this, the jury acquitted them.

Dr Diana Warner, Ruth Jarman, Ian Bray, Richard Barnard, Nick Cooper and Phil Kingston were charged with "obstructing trains or carriages on the railway" following their protest which targeted the Docklands Light Railway. They acknowledged their roles in the protest but "argued that their action was a lawful protest against government inaction on the climate crisis". They were found not guilty with a unanimous verdict.

I doubt this is an exhaustive list but I think it is sufficient to show that the arguments made by the defence in the trial of the Colston Four follow a well-established legal precedent and those arguments have been accepted by juries around the country. I don't know how many of these sorts of cases are unsuccessful, and it may be that successful defences are the exception rather than the rule. But the arguments made and the decision reached by the jury are not in any way unprecedented and anyone treating them otherwise needs to calm down.


* The greater good
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by monkey » Fri Jan 07, 2022 9:17 pm

For an unsuccessful one, didn't them Heathrow Airport protestors a few years back get found guilty whilst giving a similar defence a go?

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by lpm » Fri Jan 07, 2022 9:27 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Fri Jan 07, 2022 9:05 pm
The 'technically guilty but morally innocent' have been acquitted before. BoaF has already linked to these articles and I linked to this collection.
Exactly. Apart from them being Woodchopper links not BoaF. Juries can deliver perverse verdicts even when a judge directly orders them to ignore the defense argument. It's a fundamental aspect of the jury system that verdicts don't depend on the actual law.
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