Starmer hits out at lawyers for not prosecuting climate activists

Sir Keir Starmer hits out at lawyers for refusing to prosecute disruptive climate activists like Just Stop Oil after more than 100 sign a ‘declaration of conscience’ and vow to reject oil and gas clients

  • His intervention is likely to infuriate hard-Left activists sympathetic to the cause
  • Read more: Minister urges Keir Starmer to publish messages with Sue Gray 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has hit out at lawyers refusing to prosecute climate activists.

The former director of public prosecutions said he was committed to the ‘cab-rank rule’, where lawyers take on cases as they are assigned them rather than hand-picking clients.

It comes as more than 100 leading barristers signed a ‘declaration of conscience’, saying they will refuse to prosecute protesters from eco-groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.

A spokesman for Sir Keir said: ‘As a KC and a former director of public prosecutions, Keir believes strongly in the cab-rank principle and the importance of barristers accepting the cases that come to them as a fundamental foundation of our justice system.

‘He has gone on the record as saying that we need laws to deal with protesters who cause serious disruption – and longer sentences for those who glue themselves to roads.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to the Beatrice wind farm off the Caithness coast

The intervention is likely to infuriate hard-Left activists sympathetic to the protesters’ cause.

Prominent lawyers understood to be involved in the declaration include Jolyon Maugham KC, founder of the Good Law Project, Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC, chairman of the British Institute of Human Rights, and Michael Mansfield KC.

Signatories have also said they will refuse to act on behalf of clients involved in oil and gas on the grounds that they are destroying the environment. Their stance has angered senior members of the legal profession, who accused the group of undermining the convention that everyone is entitled to fair legal representation. 

READ MORE: Labour leader Keir Starmer paid £67,000 in tax last year on earnings of more than £210,000


Tory MP Sir Robert Buckland, a King’s Counsel and former justice secretary, called the declaration ‘very odd’, saying: ‘There are plenty of people lawyers represent who are deeply unpleasant and deeply unpopular, such as rapists and paedophiles.’

Scores of activists have appeared in courts across England and Wales, charged with offences such as criminal damage, trespass and obstructing a highway.

Defending his stance, Mr Maugham called eco-activists ‘brave friends’ who ‘the law wrongly criminalises’.

He said: ‘Sometimes the law is wrong. What it stands for is the opposite of justice. Today’s history books speak with horror about what the law of yesterday did, of how it permitted racism, rape and murder. And tomorrow’s history books will say the same about the law as it stands today, of how it enabled the destruction of our planet and the displacement of billions of people.

‘We should not be forced to work for the law’s wrongful ends by helping deliver new fossil fuel projects. We should not be forced to prosecute our brave friends whose conduct, protesting against the destruction of the planet, the law wrongly criminalises.’

It came as Just Stop Oil protesters carried out a series of ‘slow marches’ in Coventry and Leeds at the weekend and are planning further action from next month.

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