After yesterdays administrations and argument, today started with the jury being introduced to the prosecutions main elements of the case. The indictment reads:

The Queen V 20x names. are charged as follows:
Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Trespass, Contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

That .. between the 1st day of January 2009 and the 15th day of April 2009 conspired together and with others unknown to commit aggravated trespass.

Opening for the Prosecution, Miss Felicity Gerry invited the jury to write down “conspiracy, trespass, disruption, lawful activity”. Suggesting that if they find the defendants to have done this, then they are guilty of offence.

During the Easter weekend on 13th April 2009, 114 people were gathered together at the Iona School, Sneinton, Nottingham to plan and engage in a conspiracy to trespass at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.
Executing search warrants, Nottinghamshire Police mounted a major action Operation Aeroscope. Resulting in the arrest of all present. People had travelled from all over the country.  Documents recovered at the scene showed there was an agreed plan. To drive to the Ratcliffe power station, to climb the plant there and to display banners.  Thus they would disrupt the ‘lawful activity’ of the plant, it was hoped, for a week.  The crown claim the planned disruption was plainly a conspiracy. The police had recovered a press release prepared in advance demonstrating the intention of the defendants involved in this conspiracy.  Other documents found referred to food and supplies for the weeks occupation.

At this time the [then] Secretary of State for Energy Ed Milliband had application on his deck from companies wishing to build another power station.

This group had no intention of engaging in a democratic discussion on these issues and thus became involved in unreasonable direct action.  The press release included journalist contact list, thus to derive the maximum possible publicity for their actions.  Further, other document were found to be distributed to workers on the site to explain the groups actions in restricting to power stations operations.

The crown claim it is admitted by all, what their motives and intentions were.  specialist equipment seized included
10 vehicles
D-lock and steel rope cycle locks
climbing ropes and slings
heavy duty plastic carriers for food supplies etc
hard hats, Hi-vis vests
face masks
power tools
4x banners

Miss Gerry was critical saying defendant should address their remarks to MP’s on not in direct action with banners. Legal briefing were also discovered at the school, showing they knew they were committing crime. All defendants admit to being there.  There is no dispute between the parties.

Many believe the burning of fossil fuel is putting the planet in jeopardy.  Bu that is not what the trial is about.  It’s about what is a reasonable way to express their beliefs.  When arrested, they didn’t say that, but largely remained silent.

During her opening speech to the jury Miss Gerry kept eluding to the thought that direct action might be more fun than democracy.  There are many ways to disagree with policy.

“Is it really necessary to close down a power station when there are so many democratic means available?” – referencing a political process that has allowed the first member of the Green Party to become a Member of Parliament. ‘Was it more fun’ she asked, to plan this action or to vote for Zac Goldsmith? Did the defendants do all this, because they didn’t have a Glastonbury ticket?

At this point – a member of jury passed a note with three questions to the Judge. The prosecution finished their opening and the Judge left it to the Defence Counsel to answer.

Opening for the defence barrister, Edward Rees QC said: “Zac Goldsmith? Man Utd? Glastonbury? What is the relevance of these?” asked the Jury. The Mr Rees answered that there was none!!

The Defence referred back to the Prosecution’s ‘fighting talk’. I won’t go as far to say that the Prosecution’s remarks about the defendants were offensive – but to allege that the defendants don’t engage with the democratic process is not the case.

Ratcliffe-on-Soar was responsible for over 9 million tonnes of CO2 in 2007 and that this amount continues to rise. Don’t worry … politicians and energy companies have it all in hand.

They haven’t. The defendants believe authorities were failing to deal with the issue.  In their view there was inadequacy in the processes of dealing with climate change.  It is agreed the the protesters had a well ordered plan, suggesting that during the period of the planned occupation 150,000 tons of CO2 emissions would have been prevented.

The issue here is whether what they planned and intended to do, was in fact a crime..  The test is that action was reasonable in all the circumstances.  The jury are not to be asked to decide on competing climate change facts themselves.  As a matter of law, looking at what the defendants believed to be reasonably true.

There are matters such as tipping points that we simply don’t know the facts.  The defendant wish to err on the side of caution on these matters. There is in fact, a ‘democratic deficit’ in any action on climate change. Looking at the test of reasonableness, it was necessary to act.  In fact it might be considered that the discharge of CO2 is itself a crime.  The defence of necessity [duress of circumstances] is about preventing a greater damage.  It is not for the defendants to prove that they were reasonable, but for the crown to prove it was not.

Starting with the prosecution evidence, Miss Gerry takes the jury through the contents the bundle they had each been given. It contained assorted papers, plans, photographs, vehicle routes and catering arrangements.  A special mention of a company called ‘Veggies’ that had been contacted, asking for high calorific foods to be supplied.

She then went on to give a 10 min very basic description of the technical operation of a coal-fired power station and how it produces electricity.

She then called the first witness. Mr Raymond Henry Smith.  At that time, he was plant manager of the Ratcliffe power station, employed by E-on. He said he was called by police at 3am on 13th April 2009 to say that a police  operation had prevented the arrives of the demonstrators at the plant. Asked if they had arrived, what would the effect have been? He said the plant may have operated at reduced power or shut down,  This was the decision of the plant or duty manager on what to do in the circumstances.

Beginning his questioning, defence barrister, Edward Rees QC asks if the plant was in fact offline at that time. Mr Smith said it was.  He was questioned about E-on company decisions in its operations regarding market conditions, system demands, price of coal, all trying to elicit the idea that it was largely profit considerations in the companies operations. Mr Smith said he couldn’t answer as he was not qualified in these aspects. Mr Rees keeps suggesting that he does in fact know about such market conditions.  E-on also owns a number of gas turbine stations, and it was commercial considerations for the company to consider on which to operate for its best economy.  Its coal or gas stations could thus maintain supply as it likes.  Mr Rees does get Mr Smith to agree that it is largely market conditions dictating its operations and profitability but within current legislation.

Then questioned about carbon capture. It was suggested to him that E-on had pulled out of competition stating that it was not profitable.  In fact 30 of the most polluting stations, half were located in the UK.  But Mr Smith doesn’t know. He also wouldn’t say if he or the company believes that CO2 emission result in the effect of global warming.

Ratcliffe built in 1968 / 42 years old. But £ millions have been invested to improve efficiency. However Ratcliffe emissions had continued to rise. Mr Smith says that although efficiency has improved, more generation does result in still greater emissions.

Mr Smith said he had previously been aware at least 5 days before the activist planned actions. But he didn’t know if an injunction had been sought.  The witness stands down

For the prosecution again Miss Gerry introduces a video shot by police after all the defendant had been removed and the building had been searched. Now in daylight, we were shown room after room with some outside shots to give a sense of place and to demonstrate the buildings layout.  the jury had a map, correlating to the references on the video.  The place looked well disheveled and  I thought, were trying to show mess, damage and a lack of care of the building.  A door hanging off the hinges, holes in walls and doors etc.  Papers and property were displayed. I have to say that it was one of the most boring videos I’ve seen in a while! Some of the jury yawned … the judges’ eyes seemed to me to get heavier.

After this view, I found it hugely encouraging when the jury passed a note to the judge. When read out, they asked was the mess and damage to the door building etc caused by the protesters, or, the police during the conduct of the operation.  Prosecution agreed that yes, it was the police!!

She then went onto photos in the bundle, of food supplies in vehicles, more equipment, sleeping bags etc.

the case continues etc ……..


Ratcliffe Conspiracy Trial Begins [feature]

Ratcliffe conspiracy to trespass trial opens today