Exposed: Role of undercover police in a coal train hijack

Press release

Climate campaigners who stopped and occupied a train carrying 42,000 tonnes of coal into the UK’s largest power station, Drax, [1] will have their appeal heard on Tuesday by the UK’s top criminal judge. [2] following revelations that an undercover Metropolitan police office, Mark Kennedy, had played a role in the protest. The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer was forced to agree with an investigation by campaigners that there was an overwhelming case that the “Drax 29” convictions were unsafe, and invited them to appeal their convictions. [3]

Prosecutors have admitted that the trial prosecution were responsible for withholding evidence from both the judge and jury during the trail of the “Drax 29” in 2009. The undercover officer Mark Kennedy drove members of the group to the railway line, and was present for the protest briefing the night before, but neither his role nor his potential evidence about the group’s sincere motivations and careful safety preparations were disclosed to the courts.

If the appeal is successful, this will be a third case in which charges have been dropped or convictions overturned as a result of failures to disclose evidence about undercover officers, bringing the total of number of campaigners denied a fair trial to over 50. [4]

Defendant 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 the political activists which they spy upon. This is political policing. It is an invasion of people's lives, a waste of public money and from the police's perspective, a legal failure.

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 defendant 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. We need a 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 existing fossil fuels in the ground remains as pressing as ever.

Defendants will be available for comment and photo after the Appeal. Tues 21st January 2014. Royal Courts of Justice, Strand. Contact Robbie Gillett: 07516 906 858 or Beth Stratford: 07795071613.

[1] Martin Wainwright, 'Jury retires to consider verdict in Drax hijack trial', The Guardian, 2 July 2009
[2] The case will be 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.
[3] 'Keir Starmer QC invites Drax power station protesters to appeal', BBC News, 3 July 2012
[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. See: Rov Evans and Paul Lewis, 'Power station activists win appeal over missing police spy's tapes', The Guardian, 19 July 2011
[5] 27 Jan, 10 am, Southwark Crown Court.
[6] Rob Evans, 'Prosecutors challenged over undercover spy secrecy', The Guardian, 25 October 2013

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