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Tom Little KC successfully appears on behalf of the Attorney General in the Court of Appeal

News | Mon 18th Mar, 2024

Today the Court of Appeal (with the Lady Chief Justice presiding) handed down an important judgment following an Attorney General’s Reference on a point of law which concerned the scope and effect of the defence contained within section 5(2)(a) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. This section provides, amongst other things, for a defence of “lawful excuse” to someone charged with criminal damage if the person honestly believes at the time of the damage that the owner of the property would have consented to the damage “if he or they had known of the…damage and its circumstances”. This issue has arisen in a number of protest cases in which defendants have sought to rely on this defence and to rely on climate change as being part of the circumstances of the damage.

The Court of Appeal accepted Tom’s submissions concluding that the “circumstances” of the damage have to be linked directly to the damage. They might include, for example, the time, place and extent of the damage. In a protest case, they would include the fact that the damage was caused as part of a protest. But the “circumstances” would not include the political or philosophical beliefs of the person causing the damage. They would not include the reasoning or wider motivation of the defendant. Those matters are too remote from the damage. Evidence from the defendant about the facts of or effects of climate change would be inadmissible.

The judgment can be found here.

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