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The appeal of climate activists

Player of Games | 24.05.2011 18:07 | Climate Chaos | Energy Crisis | Repression | Oxford

Twenty activists, many of them with long links to Oxford, have launched an appeal to challenge their convictions of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass.

Supporters of the accused at the original trial
Supporters of the accused at the original trial

The twenty were amongst 114 people arrest near to the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire in what was described as 'the biggest pre-emptive arrest in British history.'

Of the 114, twenty six people were charged. Twenty were found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass in December and sentenced in January.
# Judge sentences 18 of Ratcliffe defendants:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/01/471615.html
# Ratcliffe trial last two sentences:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/01/472342.html

The remaining six, all of whom pleaded not guilty, were being tried in January. The case against them collapsed when was revealed that an undercover cop – Mark Stone/Kennedy [1] had evidence that could show their innocence. Evidence that the police kept from prosecutors and the defence. One of the six defendants posted his reflections.
# Undercover and over-the-top: The collapse of the Ratcliffe trial:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/oxford/2011/01/472027.html

This evidence was not known to the prosecutors or defence of the 20 activists that had already been sentenced. An independent inquiry earlier this year caused huge doubt as to the safety of these convictions. Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, even contacted the activists' legal team to offer support in overturning the convictions. This has led to the launch of the 20 activists' appeal today.

The activists issued a joint statement: "Our case continues to demonstrate the state's consistency in putting the interests of unlimited growth and unfettered capitalism before the rights and needs of people and planet. Our story began with the largest pre-emptive arrest of activists the UK has ever seen back in April 2009, and has since seen a random selection of us dragged through costly legal processes. The resulting consequence was 20 of us being convicted and sentenced for a crime we did not commit … The launch of this appeal is just one small step in the fight back against the systemically political nature of policing. We stand in solidarity with all those who face repression for daring to take political action."

And all this on the same day that PC Harwood has been charged with manslaughter over the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests. Are we witnessing a sea change in how the legal system views the police and activists? I'm not holding my breath, but things are looking up compared to a year ago.


[1] Mark Stone/Kennedy was first outed as an infiltrator on Indymedia (the Guardian still seem to be unable to accept this).
# Mark 'Stone/Kennedy' exposed as undercover police officer‏:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/10/466477.html

This lead to several other facilitators being identified
# Three undercover political Police unmasked as infiltrators into UK Anarchist, Anti-Fascist and Climate Justice movements:  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/oxford/2011/01/472317.html

This is a useful guide to outing infiltrators without spreading rumours from Northern Indymedia.
# Exposing Infiltrators Guidelines:  https://northern-indymedia.org/zines/1174

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Hide the following 8 comments

Arn't they guilty?

24.05.2011 18:43

Or are they just trying to act aloof to it all and do the old "guilt moi?" routine and "what about my right? thats not legal" bullshit?

Jobless and poor

RE: Arn't they guilty?

24.05.2011 19:18

I think that's for the courts to decide.

I'm an neither a legal expert, or closely involved with the case (so if you are either of these feel free to correct me). My understanding it that the 20 people pleaded guilty but claimed a mitigation of lawful excuse - whereby to commit a wrong (in this case, conspiracy to commit agg tres) would be outweighed by the fact that it would prevent a greater wrong (impact of climate change) taking place. A common example if that if your house is on fire and I kick the door down, I have committed criminal damage. However, I have only done this to prevent a greater wrong (you dying) from taking place. The lawful excuse argument was successfully used by Greenpeace activists at Kingsnorth.

I understand that the prosecution in this case did not accept this mitigation claiming that the activists were not trying to prevent a greater wrong, but were conducting a publicity stunt. It appears that evidence to refute the prosecution's claim was collected by Mark Stone - and undercover policeman - and handed over to Nottingham police. Nottingham police failed to make this evidence available to the legal teams (as they are required to do), hence why an independent inquiry found cause to believe that the prosecutions may be unsound, and why the DPP contacted the defence teams.

This isn't just a technicality - providing full evidence to legal teams, and via them courts and juries, is fundamental to the legal system - the need all the evidence available to make an informed decision.

As far as I know, neither the DPP or barrister Claire Montgomery (who conducted the inquiry) have reputations for acting aloof when it comes to legal issues - would love to hear evidence of them doing so if that's the case.


Is it possible...

24.05.2011 20:14

for the 20 to bring a charge against the police for deliberately withholding evidence. If you or I did it we would no doubt get done.
or this??  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoliation_of_evidence

anyone else know?

illegal expert

illegal expert

24.05.2011 20:58

> for the 20 to bring a charge against the police for deliberately withholding evidence. If you or I did it we would no doubt get done.
> Perjury??
Would have to prove that somebody knowingly lied. If they didn't know the evidence existed, it seems to me it would be hard to prove they lied.

> or this??  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoliation_of_evidence
This looks like US law - I don't know if it applies in the English & Welsh courts.

> anyone else know?
Not really. But the people in this case are being represented by Bindmans - a legal company that I have a lot of respect for when it come to civil rights.

If the police have committed a criminal offence, then it's up to the 'crown' to prosecute. As far as I know, only the crown can take out a criminal action. Should the activists take a civil action?

I think people should be careful about saying those that were 'should' do this or that (e.g. should they take a civil proceeding out?). They been through a couple of years of legal hell, and I suspect they all have their own lives to get on with. I would not blame any of them in the get to a point of being (hopefully) exonerated and then call it a day (i.e. don't want to get into a protracted legal case).

No expert


25.05.2011 17:56

Acting under duress after beeing incited or coerced is a valid legal defence. As such you can demand to see all the reports Mark Kenedy has writen etc. In america "being set-up" in a sting operation might be legal but not in the uk.

A few years ago an ALF extremist was freed on this, after having been arrested with an illegal shotgun in his car!


Not quite correct

25.05.2011 18:25

In fact 20 people pleaded NOT guilty and advanced the defense that they acted or intended to act in defense of the planet. This was the same tactic that Kingsnorth greenpeace defendants used. The difference this time is that the jury didn't find that credible - and found them guilty.
The uc gathered evidence that was withheld and that fact alone makes the convictions unsafe. The problem that they were relying on a jury to accept the greater good argument - and they didn't


my thoughts

25.05.2011 18:59

If i was in the jury - I wouldn't agree with the greater good argument too.

Mainly because it is totally flawed.
The idea that they'd try and convince me that closing one power station in the UK is going to affect the world's climate is somewhat insulting to my intelligence.

I'd argue back that it won't make a blind bit of difference. That china, brazil, india and other developing countries are building power stations on a massive scale, so one power station in the UK is of no consequence. (assuming manmade global warming is true, which i don't buy into).

Therefore, the argument that it was making for the greater good just doesn't hold any weight. It is fanciful, and maybe just trying to make a point, but it certainly isn't factual.


re my thoughts

25.05.2011 21:43

I would like to think that if you were on the jury you would make your decision on the evidence presented during the case. My knowledge of the law is somewhat limited, but I believe that's how it's meant to work.

The jury is out

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