Drax coal train defendants have their convictions quashed
Here’s a press release from our Drax 29 friends who don’t have their own website – but did have their convictions quashed today.
PRESS RELEASE: Coal train protestors have convictions overturned after undercover police involvement is exposed
Climate campaigners who stopped and occupied a train carrying 42,000 tonnes of coal into the UK’s largest power station, Drax, (1) have had their convictions overturned today by the UK’s top criminal judge (2), following revelations that an undercover Metropolitan police office, Mark Kennedy, played a role in the protest.
Prosecutors admitted that the trial prosecution were responsible for a “catastrophic failure of disclosure” in withholding evidence from both the judge and jury during the trail of the “Drax 29” in 2009.
Heavily redacted files recording communications between Mark Kennedy, known as UCO 133, and his handler at the Metropolitan Police show that the undercover officer was present for the protest briefing, and that he drove members of the group to a level crossing near the power station. The communications also note that the group had conducted a “full thought-through risk assessment. Those stopping the train were going to do so in strict accordance with rail track policy.…All people involved are switched on and very safety conscious…it was meticulous”.
Referring to these documents, the Lord Chief Justice Thomas asked repeatedly “on whose authority have these documents been redacted?” He went on to state “when a court is asked to overturn convictions in a case of potential police misconduct, it is not satisfactory that the police should decide which sections of documents redact and which to make public. That should be a decision for the courts not the police”.
Appellant Robbie Gillett said, “In our trial in 2009, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service deliberately withheld evidence from the jury. They’re not interested in providing a fair trial to those they spy upon. This is political policing. It is an invasion of peope’s lives, a waste of public money and from the police’s perspective, a legal failure.”
This is the third case in which charges have been dropped or convictions overturned as a result of failures to disclose evidence about undercover officers (4).
On 27 Jan, another potential miscarriage of justice will be heard by a London court (5). This case involves another undercover Metropolitan police officer, Jim Boyling, who is accused of misleading the court by appearing as a defendant in a trial under his assumed activist identity, and using the same lawyers as the other defendants, thereby gaining access to confidential legal advice.
Drax 29 appellant Beth Stratford said, “The failure to disclose material related to undercover officers to the courts appears endemic. Despite this and other recent revelations about the tactics of undercover police – their use of sexual relationships their theft of the identities of dead children, their attempts to smear those seeking justice for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence – this secret police force remains unaccountable. The hard-won lessons from Hillsborough, from the murder of Stephen Lawrence and other cases is that the police cannot be trusted to investigate themselves. We need an independent public inquiry get to the bottom of what has been going on”
Defendant Robbie Gillett added, “Our actions at Drax aimed to stop the burning of fossil fuels in response to the reality of dangerous climate change. As increasingly extreme weather systems wreak havoc on homes, families and communities across the UK, the need to leave nearly all existing fossil fuels in the ground remains as pressing as ever.”
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Notes to Editors
(2) The case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand on the 21st January at 10:30, by Lord Chief Justice Thomas and 2 other judges.
(4) In July 2011, twenty climate activists had their convictions for a planned protest at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station overturned due to lack of disclosure of undercover evidence by the Crown Prosecution Service. In January 2011 the trial of six other campaigners arrested over the same plot collapsed. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jul/19/power-station-activists-win-appeal
(5) 27 Jan, 10 am, Southwark Crown Court.