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.”
Contact 07516 906 858
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.
Entrance to Barton Moss test site blocked, to prevent drilling vehicles from entering
Directions to the site can be found at http://northerngasgala.org.uk/
At 5.30 this morning (Monday 16th December 2013), fifty people blocked the entrance to IGas’s exploratory drilling site in Barton Moss with a giant wind turbine blade. The campaigners arrived at the site in Salford in Greater Manchester, proceeded to unload and assemble the 17-metre blade from its three component segments. They were spotted by a security guard who called the police, but the officers who arrived on the scene were too late to prevent the blockade from being set up.
The campaigners then left, leaving the heavy wind turbine blade in place across the entrance, complete with a large red Christmas bow. Currently all vehicle access the site is being severly disrupted by the 1.5-tonne blade, which cannot be moved without large numbers of people or specialist equipment.
IGas have obtained permission to drill a 3000 metre (10000 foot) test well at Barton Moss, in the hope of extracting both coal bed methane and shale gas. If the tests prove successful, IGas would then be likely to use the controversial extraction method of horizontal slickwater hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to blast gas out of the ground . In the US, where fracking has been underway for several years, the practice has been linked to water contamination, air pollution, and risks to local water supplies, with over 1000 leaks and spills reported in one year in North Dakota alone . If fracking were to spread across the UK, it would lead to the extraction of large amounts of oil and gas that would otherwise have remained in the ground, with serious consequences for the climate .
The fracking industry itself has admitted that the practice is unlikely to bring down energy bills , and economist Nicholas Stern has accused the Government of “baseless economics” for claiming otherwise . Meanwhile, the Government’s own Committee on Climate Change has released a report showing that a shift away from fossil fuels to renewables and energy efficiency could save the UK public £85 billion per year .
Following a summer of high-profile anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in West Sussex, which ended when the drilling company Cuadrilla withdrew its fracking application , Barton Moss is now widely seen as the new frontline in the battle for clean energy in the UK , and in November 2013 a “Barton Moss Protection Camp” was set up at the site. Actions are frequently launched from the camp to disrupt drilling activities at the site, and at least ten people, including local residents, have been arrested in the last few weeks . This year’s anti-fracking protests seem to have shifted public opinion; according to national polling by the University of Nottingham, support for fracking dropped significantly after the summer protests at Balcombe .
Today’s action was carried out by a group of people from all over the UK who had been inspired by the Reclaim The Power protest camp at Balcombe earlier this year. Sandra Denton, who was one of the people who put the blade in place, said: “We’ve delivered this early Christmas gift to IGas to remind them that we don’t need damaging, risky and polluting energy sources like oil and gas to power the UK. The Government and the big energy companies are planning to build a new wave of gas-fired power stations, partly fed by thousands of fracking wells across the British countryside. This would lock us into using this expensive and dirty fossil fuel for decades to come, trapping us in a future of spiralling energy prices and disastrous floods, storms and droughts as climate change kicks in. Meanwhile, a shift to properly insulated homes powered by clean, community-owned or publicly-controlled renewable energy would rescue millions from fuel poverty, prevent thousands of winter deaths and give us all a decent chance at avoiding runaway climate change.”
Rachel Thompson of Frack Free Greater Manchester, a separate local group who are campaigning against fracking in the area, said: “The Government’s plan to increase our reliance on gas – including fracked gas – would lead to higher energy bills and more pollution. The only reason they’re going down this path is because of the power and influence of the big energy companies. The Big Six can make far bigger profits from fossil fuels than from clean energy or home insulation schemes, which is why they’re using their cosy relationship with Government to block renewable alternatives and keep us all burning their expensive gas. That’s why we all need to stand up for a fairer, cleaner, more democratic energy system without the Big Six profiteers in charge.”
Pearl Hopkins, a local resident, said, “I didn’t know today’s action was going to happen but I’m very glad it did. It’s great that people are coming from all over the country to support us at Barton Moss – and with creative blockades like this one. Local people have tried using all the official channels to object to this scheme, but the Council and IGas seem determined to brush our concerns under the carpet and carry on regardless. We’d like renewable energy for the future – not the destruction of our towns and countryside with thousands of drill sites.”
Notes for Editors
 The International Energy Agency has calculated that we need to leave two thirds of known conventional fossil fuels in the ground to have even a 50% chance of avoiding runaway climate change. This calculation doesn’t include unconventional fossil fuel sources like shale gas and coal bed methane, which means we can’t really afford to burn these forms of fuel at all. See Page 11 of http://newint.org/blog/the_fracking_files.pdf
An open invitation to a day of creative visioning for radical social change.
This summer, hundreds of people converged at the Reclaim the Power camp in Balcombe. In our hundreds, we learnt, shared, listened, showed solidarity – and took powerful, affective direct action.
But that was just the start…
Now we’ve had a few months to take a step back, it’s time to think about what potential this organising network has to achieve radical social change in the future.
So, everyone, no matter how new or experienced, is invited to take part in a day where we all share our visions and ideas for the future. Whether that’s the future of our energy infrastructure, the diversity of our movement or our battle against austerity… Nothing is off the table.
Together, we achieved some incredible things over summer – and we will achieve more. What that looks like is up to all of us.
Location: MERCI, Manchester
Time: Saturday 14th December, 11:30am – 8pm
Address: 22a Beswick Street, Manchester, Lancashire, M4 7HR
Crash Space/Social: Provided. Further details TBC.
Meals: Provided, donation cost TBC
Anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss stepped up a gear today as Salford residents and activists joined arms to block the drilling rig from entering the proposed new drill site. There were four arrests.
Everyone is invited to visit the Protection Camp. http://northerngasgala.org.uk/
Frack Free Salford and Manchester: http://frackfreegtrmanchester.org.uk/
Things to bring:
Water, food and warm/waterproof clothes, sun protection.
Picnics, cakes, fluid, tea-making facilities, warm/waterproof clothes, friends, banners, games, music, instruments, Knitting (yellow and black – gasfield free community colours!), blankets, chairs, tables, Gazebos, small tents, plastic cutlery/plates.
Things not to bring:
Alcohol, drugs, anything which could be construed as a weapon, glass etc.
The site at Barton Moss is on farmland adjacent to the M62 in Salford, Greater Manchester. The site entrance is off Barton Moss Road, to the north of Tunnel Farm, just before the bridge over the motorway. Barton Moss Road runs north from the Liverpool Road (A57) to the west of Barton Aerodrome. There is a house with banners (see picture) on the corner of Barton Moss Road/Liverpool Road.
Buses (67) run regularly from Manchester (Shudehill Interchange) down the Liverpool Road and stop at Barton Moss Road. The nearest railway stations are Patricroft (about 2 miles away) and Irlam (about 3 miles away). Both stations are a short walk from the Liverpool Road from where you can get a number 67 bus.
Address: Land North of Tunnel Farm, Barton Moss Road (off Liverpool Road/A57), Eccles, Manchester M30 7RQ
See our map for more detailed directions.
The Northern Gas Gala! will be a show of community protection against the threat of harm to our health and environment posed by the fracking industry. The industry is supported by the state and therefore there will almost certainly be a police-presence. Know your rights, read THIS and don’t be intimidated. The Gala will be a inclusive, friendly space and we won’t be bullied.
Saturday 12th October 2013
12 noon – 5pm
Session 1: The Story So Far
– Resistance around the world (Australia, Canada, Poland, Argentina)
– The Road to Balcombe (resistance to fracking in the UK)
– Lessons that can learned from Balcombe
Session 2: The Frack Industry’s Plans In The North West
IGas plans in Salford, Cuadrilla’s plans in Lancashire and other threats to the North West from Dart, Aurora and Underground Coal Gasification.
Session 3: Supporting Community Resistance
Getting organised and supporting community group formation.
With speakers from Residents Against Fylde Fracking (RAFF) and No Dash for Gas
The event will be wheelchair accessible.
Thursday 22nd November 2012
Meet at 1.30pm, outside Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square (under the large Santa Claus), M60 2LA
In this meeting the final decision will be made on the application for a ‘World Logistics Hub’, which would involve the construction of 43 warehouses and almost 1,500 car parking spaces on 90 acres of former greenbelt land.
We will gather at 1.30pm outside Manchester Town Hall. The meeting will begin at 2pm, in the Banqueting Room, Level 2, Town Hall.
On Saturday 3rd November around 100 local residents and campaigners took part in a protest walk against the proposed World Logistics Hub at Manchester Airport. The protesters braved the cold to take a route around the 90 acre former greenbelt site, which is threatened by the plans to build 43 cargo sheds and almost 1,500 car parking spaces.
Local residents, wildlife enthusiasts and environmental campaigners spoke at various points along the walk, sharing their experiences of fighting Manchester Airport expansion and highlighting the numerous ways that the plans would affect local people and the environment.
Several Councillors of the Wythenshawe Area Committee backed the Logistics Hub plans based on the Airport’s promises of local job opportunities. However campaigners argue that job creation figures proposed by the Airport are inflated.
Jane Beetson from ‘Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport’ campaign said “When Manchester Airport first announced plans for a second runway, they claimed 50,000 jobs would be created. No-where near that number of jobs materialised. Just like then, they are misleading the public now.”
She added, “Local Councillors say they will force the Airport to give jobs to local people but in practice they will have no way of enforcing this on the firms that move into the new office and warehouse spaces. We need to create green jobs in sustainable industries not dirty aviation.”
The Wildlife Walk was also an opportunity for wildlife experts to explain that Airport’s promises of preserving wildlife are also unrealistic, and that creating a ‘mitigation zone’ is no substitution for leaving habitats untouched.
Along the route, campaigners encountered the threatened habitats of numerous plant and animal species. Several mature oak trees line Sunbank Lane, providing nesting opportunities for rare birds, and potential roosting spots for endangered bat species. The site is also home to 12 ponds occupied by Great Crested Newts, an endangered species found only in the North West of England. Walkers were also able to spot signs of protected animals for example badger snuffle holes and mole hills in the green space around Sunbank.
Manchester Mule coverage here.