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Jury acquits Palestine Actionist of ‘possession with intent’

Showing that it’s nearly always better to go with a jury, Blyth Brenthall is found not guilty.

By unanimous decision, a Wood Green Crown Court jury found Blyth Brenthall, a Palestine Action activist, not guilty of ‘possessing articles to commit criminal damage’ after a two-day trial. Despite being permitted no defences and having admitted their intention to throw the items – eggs filled with red paint and ketchup – at a building, the acquittal took only one hour’s deliberation. The intended target was Elbit System’s former London HQ at 77 Kingsway, London, which was vacated over two years ago after Palestine Action’s regular disruption at the site.

Speaking after the acquittal, Blyth commented:

“I would have been very disappointed if people did not see that such a small attempt at direct action was deserving of punishment in contrast to the genocide being committed right now. Everyone should consider joining Palestine Action if they wish to help end the atrocities taking place by taking action from within the UK.”

Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest weapons firm, producing 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet and land-based equipment. They also manufacture missiles, bombs, bullets and digital warfare for the Israeli Occupation Forces, its CEO even boasting of the central role the company is playing in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

The activist was arrested after the police found eggs in their backpack during a protest against Elbit Systems’ presence in Britain, occurring amidst the bombardment of Gaza in May 2021 in which Israel killed at least 260 Palestinians, injured 1900 and destroyed 1800 residential units. 

Due to the nature of the charge faced, the activist had a choice of whether the matter should be heard in a Magistrates Court or a Crown Court — the defendant chose the latter so that a jury, rather than a Judge, would decide the verdict. Despite the jury’s deciding role, the judge disallowed all defences raised by the defendant, including that an act against Elbit would be one taken to save lives or to prevent a greater crime and defences relating to the act being a proportionate protest. Despite this, it only took the jury just over an hour to reach a unanimous verdict: not guilty.

The government has increasingly acted to curtail defences available to individuals who engage in protest, civil disobedience, and direct action, including most recently the stripping of a ‘consent defence‘ – one of the few still available. Nevertheless, the jury upheld reason, deploying the principle of jury nullification to decide, as is their right, that no crime had been committed – despite the State’s laughable attempt to prosecute the activist in this fashion. In her closing speech, the activist reiterated the jury’s right to acquit based on their conscience: “According to the judge, I have no defence in law. So it is entirely up to you, the jury, to decide who is the criminal here.” ​​​​​​​

Image: Rikki Blue

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