"Serious questions" need answering after protest trial is abandoned
POLICE need to answer "serious questions" about the use of an undercover officer who infiltrated a group accused of trying to shut down one of Britain's biggest power stations, their defence lawyer said today.
Mike Schwarz was speaking after the collapse of the trial of six people charged with conspiring to shut down the coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2009.
Their case was due to be heard at Nottingham Crown Court today but was abandoned after the defence told the prosecution it planned to pursue disclosure relating to Pc Mark Kennedy before the trial judge.
Mr Schwarz said: "My clients were not guilty. They did not agree to join in any plan to occupy the power station. The evidence of Pc Kennedy presumably confirmed this.
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"Yet that evidence, had it been kept secret, could have led to a miscarriage of justice.
"Serious questions must be asked relating to the whole policing of this protest, from the use of undercover police officers, to the use of expensive and legally questionable mass pre-emptive arrests, to the use of pre-charge unaccountable bail conditions, to the seemingly arbitrary nature by which the 114 initially arrested were reduced to the final 26 who were eventually charged."
But the Crown Prosecution Service said it would offer no evidence today after new information came to light.
It is claimed that undercover officer PC Mark Kennedy, who called himself Mark Stone, contacted the defence team to say he would be prepared to help them.
The CPS said the new information which led to the collapse of the trial was "not the existence of an undercover officer".
In a statement the CPS said: "Previously unavailable information that significantly undermined the prosecution's case came to light on Wednesday, 5 January 2011.
"In light of this information, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the case and decided there was no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.
"There will be a hearing on Monday at which we will offer no evidence, thereby discontinuing the case."
Hundreds of activists were arrested when police raided the Iona School in Sneinton, Nottingham, on the morning of Easter Monday, April 13, last year.
The protesters planned to trespass at the coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station and shut it down for a week, a previous trial involving other protesters at Nottingham Crown Court heard.
Activists claim Mr Kennedy acted as an agent provocateur in the plan to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Trent power station, providing transport and funding for the group. He is reported to have recently resigned from the force and moved abroad.
Mike Schwarz, a solicitor at the Bindmans law firm which represented the protesters, said: "I have no doubt that our attempts to get disclosure about Kennedy's role has led to the collapse of the trial.
"It is no coincidence that, just 48 hours after we told the CPS our clients could not receive a fair trial unless they disclosed material about Kennedy, they halted the prosecution.
"Given that Kennedy was, until recently, willing to assist the defence, one has to ask if the police were facing up to the possibility their undercover agent had turned native."
Earlier this month 20 protesters were sentenced to a mixture of community orders and conditional discharges after they were convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at Ratcliffe.
It is now expected they will consider appealing against their convictions.
The Met Police said it was "not prepared to discuss" Mr Kennedy.
A Labour member of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee called for Home Secretary Theresa May to make a statement to MPs if the case is discontinued, as expected later today.
Senior backbencher David Winnick said: "The concern is not the fact that the Metropolitan Police, and possibly other police forces, use undercover agents. No-one is so naive as to believe that that hasn't been the case since time began.
"My concern is the manner in which it has been alleged that Kennedy acted almost as an agent provocateur. In these circumstances, I think Mrs May should come to the Commons and make a statement."