After a tiresome two weeks, the trial of the BrightoNine is finally coming to an end. Today is the final day, with the verdict edging nearer by the minute. As the case closed yesterday, the court room turned its focus to legal dispute between the prosecution and the defence. Closing statements were then heard on behalf of all nine defendants.
With the prosecution claiming that the accused had ‘evidently’ intended to cause criminal damage, the defence argued that in fact no damage had even occurred. A hand simply placed on a window, they argued, could never be considered damage. How could glue, therefore, make this act criminal? As had been heard in the evidence provided by all the defendants, the hands were removed by the use of acetone, a substance with dissolves the glue. The defence therefore concluded by suggesting that in the removal of the hand from a window, all glue would be dissolved, and hence no damage would have occurred. The glue was, the court heard, ‘a means to an end’, or ‘a form of attachment without obstruction’.
With further legal jargon used to decipher the true meaning of ‘intent’ the defence lawyers each put forward their argument as to why the BrighoNine had neither intended to cause, nor could have foreseen any damage occurring. The prosecution indeed needs to prove that either was the case, in order for the nine activists to be convicted. Intention to act the defence claimed, is not the same as intention to cause damage through that action. It has not been disputed throughout this trial that each defendant intended to glue their hands to the window: eight of the nine being successful, and the ninth having been arrested prior to attachment. The lawyers however claimed that there was no intent to cause damage through that action, nor could damage have been foreseen. Similarly, when attention turned towards the mannequins which has been agreed were ‘disturbed’ by a door upon entrance to the western window area, the defence claimed that there was no foreseeable risk that these mannequins could have been damaged. In fact, there was not enough evidence, the defence suggested, that the judge could be beyond reasonable doubt that damage had even occurred; claiming that the crown’s case was ‘speculation at its highest’. As heard in evidence given by Miss Pearce (the Topshop manager) earlier in the trial, the Visual Manager of the shop enters through the same door on a daily basis. How then, the defence claimed, could the defendants have foreseen that the door could have disturbed the mannequins?
The BrightoNine trial is one which has received a lot of support from around the country, suggesting a public interest in the case. The prosecutor, Mr Shay said he ‘did not dispute [the activists’] sincerity’ with reference to their concern about the government’s spending cuts. As the court heard from each defendant the reasons behind their actions, there were examples of ward closures, benefits cuts, and austerity measures leading to cuts to the NHS. The court heard of the want to offer an alternative to the government, stimulate debate within parliament, and a felt necessity to play a fundamental role in creating more public awareness about the issue. And as stated by expert witness Caroline Lucas MP, parliamentary bills will only be discussed as public pressure mounts, and actions such as this are taken.
And so the case closes….