Rebel Verdict

REVIEWS, 13 Jun 2022

Irene Publishing – TRANSCEND Media Service

The remarkable story of how two peace activists took on the British government – and won.

Rebel Verdict, by Michael Randle, Irene Publishing, 28 Mar 2022, 522 pp.

“The Old Bailey trial of the two peace activists, Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, for helping free the spy George Blake back in the 1960s ended with them being acquitted on all charges. It was an astonishing and entirely unexpected result and Michael Randle has now given us a full account of what happened.

He argues convincingly that the result was not, as supporters of the government at the time put it, the work of a “perverse” jury but should more correctly be seen as a rebel verdict. It was a rare example of ordinary people accepting the value of moral arguments and serves as a reminder that on issues of common justice political establishments do not always get it their own way.

Rebel Verdict will be of great interest to anyone in the legal profession as well as to new generations of antiwar and environmental campaigners, especially the increasing number of people prepared to take nonviolent direct action on climate issues. Quite apart from anything else, it is also a rattling good read.”

It takes real courage to go against the whole political and military establishment, mainstream media, and most ordinary citizens. Michael Randle and his friends risked everything in helping George Blake to escape from prison. They challenged the law and lived many years in fear, but were proven right in a court! Like some other activists – Plowshares and climate justice protesters – they managed to convince a British jury that the law and the judge were wrong.

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“Michael Randle helped us to smuggle literature into occupied Czechoslovakia in the early 1970s. He risked imprisonment by driving the first van across the Iron Curtain. Only about 20 years later did I discover that he had built the same secret compartments in an earlier van with which he smuggled George Blake out of the UK to East Germany. I agreed to be his character witness in the court because I admired his courage, integrity and strength of convictions. I was happy to support him even though at that time I had to defend myself against accusations that I have worked for the Communist Secret Service and any, even indirect association with a Soviet spy made my position more difficult. However, I understood Michael’s fight for peace and human rights. His credo – plague on both houses. Neither US nor Soviet missiles. Neither gulags nor Guantanamo.”

– Jan Kavan, Former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, former President of the UN General Assembly

“It takes real courage to go against the whole political and military establishment, mainstream media, and most ordinary citizens. Michael Randle and his friends risked everything in helping George Blake to escape from prison. They challenged the law and lived many years in fear, but were proven right in a court! Like some other activists – Plowshares and climate justice protesters – they managed to convince a British jury that the law and the judge were wrong. I hope this book and its powerful story will inspire more people to follow in their footsteps; to resist injustice and stand up for the value of all human life.”

Stellan Vinthagen, professor of sociology, scholar-activist, and the Inaugural Endowed Chair in the Study of Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he directs the Resistance Studies Initiative.

Buy the book here: Rebel Verdict


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Jun 2022.

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