Last time I looked we had a long and honourable tradition in this country of respect for justice and juries. And, though some might think it strange to say so, that respect lies at the heart of Greenpeace's direct action culture. Greenpeace volunteers take personal responsibility for their actions and leave it to 'the people', in the form of a 12-person randomly selected jury, to determine whether that action was appropriate and lawful or not.
It was on that basis that a jury acquitted six climate change campaigners on criminal damage charges last September after they'd occupied and shut down Kingsnorth coal power station. Why? Because the evidence and expert opinion indicated that the threat of runaway climate change far outweighed the damage done, the jury accepted their defence of 'lawful excuse'.
This verdict has since been recognised internationally as an important precedent in the battle against climate change - on Sunday the New York Times included the 'Kingsnorth defence' in its annual list of the most influential ideas that will change our lives. Under the heading 'The Climate-Change Defense' the newspaper said the verdict 'shook up the world of green politics'.
But back home the government has deliberately failed to grasp the key point about this pivotal case - namely that 12 jurors sat through six days of evidence from international experts, and concluded in the end that the activists were justified in shutting down a coal plant because of the huge damage it's doing to our world.
Logically, after such a defeat, their conclusion ought surely be that it’s time to start dismantling these climate-wrecking coal plants but instead, amazingly, they've decided to undermine the jury system for climate change cases. A recent letter from the Crown Prosecution Service to Greenpeace's lawyers reveals that the Attorney-General is close to referring the case of the Kingsnorth to the Court of Appeal in an effort to remove the defence of 'lawful excuse' from future actions.
So rather than deal with the real issue, which is how to phase-out and replace dirty coal power, the government would rather shoot the messenger instead. Which has led one of the Kingsnorth Six, Ben Stewart, to conclude that:
"Ed Miliband has called for a people-led movement on global warming, but this government doesn’t trust normal people who sit on juries to decide what’s right and wrong on climate change. Ministers have set up citizens juries across the country on every issue under the sun, but when a real jury says something they don't like on the greatest issue of our day, they move to shut them down. It’s pretty sinister."
Sinister indeed. And let's not forget that this government already has 'form' where this sort of manipulation is concerned; when a 'free public consultation' comes to a conclusion it doesn't like - such as whether to build new nuclear power plants or a third runway at Heathrow Airport, for example - it is happy to ignore the tens of thousands of objections from the public, fix the result and push ahead with the policy anyway.
Sadly it seems, this government appears happy to listen to its people only so long as they tell it exactly what it wants to hear. That's not how democracy is meant to work, and it's not acceptable.