Eco-law Trial 
At The Supreme Court

Tony Rollinson
Monday, 5th September 2011

A groundbreaking, mock Ecocide trial is to be held at the UK's Supreme Court in September 2011. The trial is open to the public and will be streamed live to social network sites. As readers of the current issue of Permaculture magazine will know, the environmental laywer Polly Higgins is a central figure in the exploration of this increasingly headline grabbing issue.

On Friday 30th September 2011, London's Supreme Court will be the venue for a mock trial, played out as though the crime of Ecocide had already been adopted.

The one day trial will follow UK court procedures and is open for the public to attend and starts at 9am. It is being shown on TV screens outside the courtroom for those not able to get into the actual courtroom.

The trial will be filmed and streamed live to social network sites. Edited versions will be available for international, national and local television, radio and other media outlets and for public and private screenings.


In April 2010 the British environmental lawyer, Polly Higgins proposed to the United Nations that a law on Ecocide to be classed as an international law alongside Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Crimes of Aggression and War Crimes, as a 5th Crime Against Peace. If Ecocide is accepted as a crime under international law it will have a profound effect on Governments, Heads of State, Corporations and those who run them, and on the ecosystems of the Earth.

Ecocide is defined as "the mass damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished."

This groundbreaking mock trial would put some vital questions to all of us. What would such a law mean in practice? Is it legally possible to uphold such a law? Will it have more negative effects than positive? Would the Alberta Tar Sands mining, destruction of the Amazon rainforest, oil spills, the threatened existence of the low-lying Maldive Islands because of rising sea-levels, the Pacific Gyre, the island of garbage twice the size of Texas slowly spinning in the Pacific Ocean be classed as Ecocide? Who would be the individuals prosecuted under this proposed law? Could banks be culpable as well if they provide funding for activities prosecuted under Ecocide? In reality, what effect would the law have on the environment and businesses and the people who run them?

As Jonathon Porritt says "Once upon a time people did grievous harm to the environment without fully understanding the consequences of their actions. That defence is no longer available, and that sure knowledge we now have entails equally sure moral obligations. In this context, the idea of establishing the crime of Ecocide is both timely and compelling." The trial will be the focus for a campaign to raise awareness of the issues around Ecocide and to have them debated and discussed fully within Government, business, communities, the media, universities and schools, nationally and internationally.

The lawyers for both the Prosecution and Defence are are giving their time and expertise free. The witnesses will be made-up from a number of experts in relevant fields. There will be two fictional CEOs, played by actors, who will be charged on one of a number of possible scenarios. What will happen is not pre- scripted; it is ultimately for the jury to determine whether the crime of Ecocide is made out and whether the Earth Right to Life is breached. Although the Supreme Court is the venue, this will in no way imply endorsement by the Supreme Court of the opinions raised in the trial or the verdict reached by the trial jury.


For more information, or if you want to support this event , you can contact The Hamilton Group

Permaculture magazine issue 69 (autumn2011) Permaculture's editor Maddy Harland interviews Polly Higgins about her campaign for the UN to adopt Ecocide as an additional crime against peace.