29 Drax Protestors Have 2008 Convictions Overturned
1:10pm 21st January 2014
29 environmental protestors who blockaded a train carrying coal to Drax Power Station have had their convictions overturned.
During the 2008 protest, one protestor, Richard called Minster FM and spoke to our presenter Alex Brown:
It's because their trial in 2009 didn't hear the full details of the activities of a former undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy. 22 of the 29 individuals were convicted on 3 July 2009 at Leeds Crown Court after trial. The remaining seven pleaded guilty on different dates: five on 29 June 2009, one on 3 July 2009 and one on 4 September 2009.
In 2012, the group were given the right to take their case to the Court of Appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, who said at the time:
“As a result of concerns raised with me about the convictions of 29 individuals for offences committed during a protest near Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire in 2008, I ordered a review of the case by a senior CPS lawyer with no prior involvement in the case and asked Brian Altman QC, First Senior Treasury Counsel, to advise on the safety of the convictions.
“Having considered the conclusion of that review carefully, I have decided that the safety of the convictions should be considered by the Court of Appeal. That is because it appears to me that a senior CPS lawyer, who has since left the organisation, may not have complied fully with disclosure obligations in this case.
“The prosecution cannot lodge an appeal in these circumstances, so I have taken the unusual step of writing to the legal representative of those convicted, inviting them to appeal on the basis of non-disclosure of material relating to the activities of the former undercover officer, Mark Kennedy. The safety of the convictions is a matter that can only be dealt with by the Court of Appeal.
“Because I have real concerns about any prosecutions involving Mark Kennedy, in April I asked the Metropolitan Police Service to examine their records relating to Mr Kennedy’s deployment to confirm that the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, which sets out disclosure obligations, was adhered to.
“The MPS has agreed to that request and is currently engaged in that exercise. This is a task that can only be carried out by the police because they hold the relevant records, but should any issues arise in cases prosecuted by the CPS, I will ensure those cases are reviewed by a senior CPS lawyer.
“More generally, I have asked Sue Hemming, the head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, to work with our Complex Casework Unit Heads to identify, from our available records, whether there are any further cases involving undercover officers that might need to be examined.
“What happened in cases involving Mark Kennedy cannot be allowed to happen again. I have therefore negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding between ACPO, SOCA and HMRC and the CPS setting out in clear terms the approach to be followed in criminal cases involving undercover officers where it is essential that there is early, frank and regular liaison between investigating officers and prosecutors.
“In addition, I have put in place mandatory training for all senior CPS staff who supervise prosecutions involving undercover officers. That training commenced in January this year and is ongoing.”
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