Protestors Convictions Quashed Following “Catastrophic Failure of Disclosure

The Drax 29’ saw their convictions overturned by the Lord Chief Justice in the Court of Appeal today after Senior Treasury Counsel admits there had been a “catastrophic failure of disclosure” of the activities of the undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy.


In June 2008, 29 environmental protestors executed a well planned and peaceful direct action protest in which they hijacked a coal freight train on its way to Drax coal fired power station in North Yorkshire. The 29 occupied the train for 16 hours seeking to prevent the power station burning fossil fuels which were causing climate change. At their trial, they sought avail themselves of the defence of ‘necessity’ - that their actions were compelled by the imminent threat to life and limb caused by climate change.


The Prosecution failed to disclose to the defence that the man who helped them execute the plan and even drove the protestors to the railway tracks was undercover police officer Mark Kennedy, whose activities had been authorized at the highest levels. Today, Senior Treasury Counsel Brian Altman QC told the Lord Chief Justice that this had been a “catastrophic failure of disclosure” which had deprived the defence of the opportunity to argue that there had been an abuse of process by the use of an agent provocateur. He was unable to say definitively whether that failure was the fault of the police, the CPS or the QC for the Prosecution at trial.


The Lord Chief Justice asked for further enquiries to be made before the Court ordered wasted costs to be paid out of central funds. Questioning why the Ministry of Justice should foot the bill, he said: "This is a plain case of fault, either by the West Yorkshire Police or the CPS, so why shouldn't they pay?


David Rhodes and Ben Newton instructed by Mike Schwarz at Bindmans LLP have represented the Drax 29 since 2008. They were led today in the Court of Appeal by Matthew Ryder QC at Matrix Chambers.


Press links: BBCGuardian and ITV.

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