Protesters sat outside a court this morning to defend the "right of juries" to make conscience-based decisions.

A group of 17 Oxford residents stayed silently put and held signs outside the city's Crown Court as part of the 'Defend our Juries' public campaign which had organised 50 such acts of protest across the nation today.

Oxford Mail: Protesters held placards outside the court.Protesters held placards outside the court. (Image: Megan Murray-Pepper)

The principle of 'jury equity' is a power which enables a jury to reach a decision that directly contradicts the law if they feel the law is unjust.

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A former teacher who attended the protest, Jeannie Donald-McKim, said: “I was sitting because I believe that our courts are under pressure from a corrupt government to criminalise legitimate peaceful protest and jurors should be reminded of their legal right to acquit according to their conscience.

"Our rights to protest are being cancelled, our right to a fair trial are being undermined.

"The legal system is compromised by those judges who will not remind jurors of this fundamental fact, so we are here to do their job for them.”

Oxford Mail: Sitter: Lilah McKim.Sitter: Lilah McKim. (Image: Megan Murray-Pepper)

A vet and foster carer, Jessica Upton, added: "I’m distressed that key information is being withheld from juries by our courts.

"I trust 12 members of my community to make the best decision for the community when given the full facts.

"Juries should be supported not blindfolded and muzzled.”

Other attendees said they were concerned specifically about the apparent undermining of jury trials in the case of "non-violent climate activists".

The case of 'The Colston Four' (2022), where the four defendants had removed and dumped a statue of trans-Atlantic slave trade Edward Colston into a Bristol canal, has been cited as an example which showcases the principle of jury equity.

Jurors acquitted the defendants after a trial despite evidence of criminal damage.

Oxford Mail: Sitters Jessica Upton (R) and Xanthe Wells (L).Sitters Jessica Upton (R) and Xanthe Wells (L). (Image: Megan Murray-Pepper)

Former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption had said in an interview with LBC that juries acquitting people who were "plainly guilty in political cases simply because they sympathise with them", undermined the rule of law and "dishonoured the jurors oath".

A spokeswoman for protesters outside Oxford Crown Court today referred to the previous announcement to prosecute protester Trudi Warner and trouble defendants had found themselves in after explaining their beliefs and motivations in court.

Anne Taylor, a retired teacher, mother and grandmother, said: "I am here as an ordinary member of the public, horrified by this threat to our democracy.” 

Jericho resident, Maggie Bicknell, added: "Jurors cannot reach fair conclusions about actions without all the facts and facts include motivations and reasons for acting.”

A jury famously acquitted the civil servant, Clive Ponting, in 1984 after he exposed government misinformation to the public and Parliament concerning the Falklands War.