August 3, 2015
Magna Carta Barons found Not Guilty of Treason
Friday 31st July, 2015
The UK Supreme Court.
Three of the world’s top judges this evening found representatives of the Magna Carta barons not guilty of treason, in a special event organised by the UK Supreme Court and the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee.
The Mock Trial saw two senior barristers debating whether King John’s actions in the run-up to 1215 justified the terms the barons forced him to agree in the form of Magna Carta, and the extent to which rebellion against the King can be acceptable in the eyes of the law.
The event was witnessed by 800 people in the surroundings of Westminster Hall, in the Palace of Westminster.
The three judges – Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer of the US Supreme Court, and Dame Sian Elias, Chief Justice of New Zealand – left the stage to confer after hearing argument from James Eadie QC for the prosecution and Nathalie Lieven QC for the defence.
Historic witnesses including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton (played by Lord Lisvane) and intermediary William Marshal (played by Lord Judge) also assisted the court with evidence.
Historians suggest there are three types of treason: lèse-majesté, unjustified threatening the King’s life or the betrayal of the realm or the army; proditio, unjustified default of duty which injured the King or any unjustified plotting against the King; and infidelitas, unjustified violation of an oath of fidelity to the King.
Lord Neuberger concluded two concurring judgments by Justice Breyer and Dame Sian sparing the barons from a terrible fate. He said: “In relation to each type of treason, it is necessary to show that the action complained of was ‘unjustified’. For the reasons given so eloquently and clearly by my two colleagues, I would hold that, in all the circumstances, the prosecution has failed to show that the defendants’ actions were unjustified. Accordingly, I, too, would acquit Baron Fitzwalter and the other 24 defendants of the charge of the treason.”
Commenting on the decision, Sir Robert Worcester, Chairman of the Magna Carta Anniversary Committee, said: “This decision was far from inevitable, but just goes to show how the bravery and determination of those barons eight hundred years ago rings down the centuries as a justified act of rebellion. Those of us living today in democracies which take the Rule of Law seriously are reaping the benefits of the barons’ bold demonstration against King John.
“This was a thrilling event and I am so pleased that the judges have vindicated the men who took considerable risks to secure freedoms we still enjoy today.”
Professor David Carpenter, who played Baron FitzWalter and served as a historical advisor for the event, said: “It was a close run thing. We saw two excellent advocates pitted against each other over a series of fundamental questions which still have resonance today. I agree that the barons should have treated John with more respect. Had they not humiliated him after Runnymede, the country might have been spared the subsequent civil war. On the other hand, I think the verdict broadly supporting Magna Carta is absolutely right. It would have been right then and it is right now.”
Clive Anderson, who played King John, said: “I am sure King John would have been astonished and possibly enraged by this verdict, and would be considering what further steps he could take to deal with the Judges and the Barons who defied his authority”.
A video of the proceedings will be freely available to view on the UK Supreme Court website from early next week.
July 21, 2015
Mock trial to mark 800th anniversary of Magna Carta
Monday 20th July
Click here to read the full article.
A mock trial of barons and bishops will be held in the Palace of Westminster to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
TV presenter and comedy writer Clive Anderson will play a leading role alongside a number of top legal figures.
The “trial” will be held in front of Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer of the US Supreme Court, and Dame Sian Elias, Chief Justice of New Zealand.
Lord Neuberger said: “Judges never usually comment before a case, but in this instance I think I can safely make an exception.
“We will be deciding whether, setting aside the global impact of some of the ideas embedded in Magna Carta, the barons’ actions in 1215 could be justified in law.
“We can’t promise a polished theatrical performance, but we do hope to offer a creative and interesting way of retelling the great Magna Carta story that encourages people to think about the battle of wills and principles that lay behind this world famous treaty.”
The event has been organised by the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee and the UK Supreme Court.
It will take place on Friday July 31 at Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster.
The “verdict” will be published on the Supreme Court website.
May 18, 2015
Bishops and Barons to go on Trial… 800 years after alleged crimes
The Metro.co.uk, Monday 18th May.
By Richard Hartley-Parkinson.
Click here to read the article as it originally appeared.
It sounds like something from the 13th-Century.
Bishops and Barons have been summonsed for trial at the Houses of Parliament accused of treason, sparking a possible constitutional crisis.
That’s because it is from the 13th-Century.
The Supreme Court is to hold a mock trial in front of three of the world’s top judges to help mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta.
Lawyers from across the Commonwealth will argue the defence and prosecution.
One of the key issues will focus on whether the barons and bishops were acting lawfully when they refused to surrender London to King John as agreed.
It will take place on July 31 at Westminster Hall and King John has been called as a prosecution witness.
Sir Robert Worcester, from the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, said it would be ‘more than just a bit of historical themed fun’.
He said: ‘The evidence being examined by these eminent judges will help explore some timeless questions of legal and constitutional importance. Is the King above the law? Is there ever a defence for breaking a solemn promise?’
Treason! Magna Carta barons face trial 800 years on
By Patrick Sawer, 17th May.
Click here to read the article as it originally appeared.
The Barons and Bishops who forced King John to sign Magna Carta, enshrining key rights such as rule of law and protection of property, are to face ‘charges of treason’ – 800 years after the historic document was written.
They have long been credited with helping to lay the foundations of the British state as we know it today, based on the rule of law, the right to a fair trial and the protection of private property.
But this summer the Barons and Bishops who forced King John to agree to the Magna Carta are to be tried for treason – 800 years after the historic signing of the document at Runnymede, Berkshire, on June 15, 2015.
Senior lawyers, including the President of the UK Supreme Court, will sit in judgment on the Barons and Bishops who gathered by the River Thames after refusing to surrender London to King John to decide whether they acted lawfully or were in fact guilty of treasonable behaviour.
Advocates from across the Commonwealth will make the cases for the prosecution and the defence when the mock-trial is staged on July 31 at Westminster Hall, central London.
The signing of the Magna Carta – drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons – was designed to ensure the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown.
Sir Robert Worcester, Chair of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, said: “The stage is being set for a show trial that will be more than just a bit of historical themed fun – the evidence being examined by these eminent judges will help explore some timeless questions of legal and constitutional importance. Is the King above the law? Is there ever a defence for breaking a solemn promise?”
Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice, who is playing the role of William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke – described as ‘the greatest knight that ever lived’ – at the mock trial John, said:
“While the weight of modern scholarship certainly suggests the barons’ and bishops’ resistance was the right thing to do, this the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is a chance to test whether a court of law would say that their ends justified their means.
“In doing so, we’ll be exploring some of the key themes of Magna Carta, the rights of subjects, the limits on the power of monarchy, and the meaning of the rule of law.”
Magna Carta was an attempt to enforce the principle that not even the king was above the Common Law of the land and that the monarch’s powers could be held in check for the good of the country.
Thirteen copies of Magna Carta, or Magna Carta Libertatum – Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties” – were quickly made, complete with spelling mistakes, and distributed throughout the kingdom, and displayed to the public in the great cathedrals of England.
Although it was quickly annulled by Pope Innocent III, on the grounds that it was illegal and had been signed by King John under duress, Magna Carta went on to inspire wider challenges to absolutist monarchs and demands for greater liberty and justice for ordinary men and women, including the English Civil War and execution of Charles I; the American War of Independence; and the French Revolution.
July’s mock-trial is being staged to determine whether the Barons and Bishops behind the document were justified in law in breaching their promise to surrender London to King John and then forcing him to sign the document limiting his powers.
The trial will be judged by Lord Neuberger, President of the UK Supreme Court; Dame Sian Elisa, Chief justice of New Zealand and the Hon. Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
King John will appear as a witness for the prosecution.
Among the witnesses for the defence will be Sir Robert Rogers, now Lord Lisvane, who was until last August the Clerk to the House of Commons. He is expected to argue that Parliamentary democracy might not exist today where it not for the actions of the Barons at Runnymede.
The two-hour mock-trial is being staged by the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary, with around half of the 800 seats at Westminster Hall open to members of the public via a ballot to be held at the end of June.
Sir Robert added: “I hope people from across the country, of all ages and backgrounds, enter the draw for tickets to come and witness what I am sure will be one of the highlights of this year of commemorations.”
For more information on the trial and the events commemorating the anniversary of Magna Carta go to www.magnacarta800th.com.
Would you like to be in the stands at the Mock Trial? Public tickets are available through our sign – up form on the Magna Carta 800th website here.