A woman accused of holding up a banner outside court calling on jurors to acquit Insulate Britain supporters has been referred to the Attorney General.
Trudi Warner, 68, from Walthamstow in east London, was detained last week after allegedly targeting jurors in a trial at Inner London Crown Court before Judge Silas Reid.
In the trial, Judge Reid had instructed jurors to decide the case according to the law and evidence and to set aside any views they might have about climate change and property insulation.
But on March 27, as members of the jury arrived at the court, Ms Warner allegedly held up a poster which stated: “Jurors, you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”
The incident was caught on CCTV and pictures of Ms Warner were posted on the official Twitter feed of Insulate Britain, the Old Bailey was told.
She was detained on March 29 on suspicion of contempt in the face of the court and the case was sent by Judge Reid to a High Court judge at the Old Bailey.
Following the Inner London Crown Court trial, four climate protesters were convicted of causing a public nuisance on Friday.
On Tuesday, Ms Warner held up another placard outside the Old Bailey in front of supporters displaying an Insulate Britain banner.
Another activist held a sign with the message: “Peaceful climate activists are not criminals.”
During the contempt hearing, Ms Warner sat in the well of the court behind her barrister, Raj Chada, and spoke only to confirm her name.
Mr Justice Cavanagh told the court: “The allegation in this case is that this was a deliberate attempt to interfere with the course of justice with a view to inciting jurors in front of Judge Reid to breach their oath and affirmation by coming to verdicts in the trial not based on the evidence before them and disregarding legal directions of the trial judge.”
On being invited to make submissions, Mr Chada argued for no further action to be taken against Ms Warner and opposed a referral to the Attorney General, Victoria Prentis KC.
He said it would not be in anybody’s interests to delay the matter while more trials involving Insulate Britain are due to be heard after Easter at Inner London Crown Court.
There was little factual dispute in Ms Warner’s case, but Mr Chada questioned whether her actions amounted to a contempt of court and if legal proceedings were “proportionate”.
He said: “There was clearly a concern of the judge but the trial did go ahead and indeed the defendants were convicted in that case.
“It’s not directly related but I would bring to the court’s attention, the issue at the heart of this case are the rulings of his honour Judge Reid in relation to the ambit of evidence which is subject to the challenge at the Court of Appeal.”
He added that a referral would mean Ms Warner would have the case “hanging over” her for some “considerable time”.
Deciding it would not be appropriate to take no further action, the senior judge noted that the allegation against Ms Warner involved a “degree of subterfuge and concealment”.
Mr Justice Cavanagh referred to the Attorney General to decide whether to go ahead with contempt proceedings and consult with police and the Crown Prosecution Service on a possible criminal charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The judge ordered that the court should be informed of the Attorney General’s decision before a further hearing in the case.
If found in contempt in the face of the court, Ms Warner could face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine.