Protester Trudi Warner holding a sign outside the Royal Courts...

Protester Trudi Warner holding a sign outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, following a High Court ruling in London, Monday, April 22, 2024. A London judge says a climate protester who could have faced up to two years in prison for holding a sign outside a courthouse reminding jurors of their right to acquit defendants should not be charged with contempt of court. High Court Justice Pushpinder Saini said Monday that Trudi Warner's act was not a crime because jurors can reach a verdict based on their conscience. Credit: AP/Lucy North

LONDON — A climate protester who could have faced up to two years in prison for holding a sign outside a courthouse reminding jurors of their right to acquit defendants cannot be charged with contempt of court, a London judge ruled Monday.

Trudi Warner had been arrested last March and accused of “deliberately targeting” jurors before a trial of climate activists from the group Insulate Britain.

She held a sign in front of Inner London Crown Court that said: “Jurors you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”

High Court Justice Pushpinder Saini said her act was not a crime because jurors can reach a verdict based on their conscience and Warner had not interfered with jurors.

“It is fanciful to suggest that Ms. Warner’s behavior falls into this category of contempt,” Saini said. “At no point did Ms. Warner assault, threaten, block, accost or impede anyone’s access to the court.”

The ruling comes as hundreds of environmental activists have been arrested for peaceful demonstrations in Europe and the U.K., where tough new laws restrict the right to protest.

While the Conservative British government says the laws prevent extremist activists from hurting the economy and disrupting daily life, critics say civil rights are being eroded without enough scrutiny from lawmakers or protection by the courts.

Hundreds of people followed Warner’s lead and held similar signs outside courthouses to protest what they said undermined the foundations of trial by jury. At least two dozen “Defend Our Juries” protesters have been interviewed by police, though so far no one other than Warner has been charged.

Warner welcomed the ruling, noting it came on Earth Day, and said she was relieved.

“When you see a letter that says government department versus Trudi Warner, and when you have an indictment which is 133 pages, it’s intimidating," she said.

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