UK trial collapses amid undercover police claims

10th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The trial of six activists accused of trying to shut down a British power station collapsed Monday, with their lawyers claiming a police infiltrator had been prepared to give evidence on their behalf.

The environmental activists were charged with conspiring to shut down the coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar power plant outside Nottingham, central England, in April 2009. Twenty people were convicted last year.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which is responsible for prosecuting cases in England, said new information had emerged which meant there was no point continuing the trial.

However, the CPS insisted the new information was "not the existence of an undercover officer".

A BBC television investigation claims that police constable Mark Kennedy spent a decade under cover in the environmental protest movement.

Lawyers for the six accused claim it was their pressure for full disclosure about his role which brought about the collapse of the trial.

In a statement, the CPS said: "Previously unavailable information that significantly undermined the prosecution's case came to light on Wednesday.

"The CPS reviewed the case and decided there was no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction."

They decided to "offer no evidence, thereby discontinuing the case" at Monday's hearing at Nottingham Crown Court.

Defence lawyer Mike Schwarz said he represented 113 of the 114 people arrested in a police swoop ahead of the alleged planned descent on the power station.

"The 114th, we now know, was PC Kennedy, an undercover police officer," he told reporters outside court.

The CPS's new information "came at a time when the prosecution were informed that we planned to pursue disclosure of the evidence relating to PC Kennedy before the trial judge", he said.

"The two are obviously connected. The timing speaks for itself."

Asked whether he thought Kennedy had "turned native", Schwarz replied: "It's speculation but I think he did. I think he was persuaded by the arguments about the pressing nature of climate change."

The police said they were "not prepared to discuss" Kennedy.

© 2011 AFP

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