At St. Alban’s Magistrates Court on Monday 23rd August 2021 the final 7 activists from the ‘Extinction is Forever’ protest (which took place outside a HS2 site on the outskirts of Maple Cross, Uxbridge, West London in October 2020) were suddenly acquitted when the case was dismissed by the judge after just one hour into the proceedings.
One week before the trial was due to take place the prosecution had altered the charge from Section 241 (D) of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act (watching or besetting a workplace, in order to compel a person to abstain from doing an act that person had a legal right to do – TU92006) to Section 241 (C) (“Hide or deprive or hinder use of tools/clothes/property”). The judge decided that the prosecution had not given adequate time for the defendants to prepare their case and ruled that it was not “in the interests of justice” to adjourn the trial for another date. The judge was heard to comment to the CPS: “Why are you wasting our time with this again?”
This now marks the final round of trial dates from the group of 21 activists arrested at the non-violent protest, where no cases that came to trial were successful. This is a running theme in court cases related to HS2. The prosecution have been known to habitually drop cases at the last minute, make last minute amendments to charges, fail to turn up to court or have their cases thrown out on day one of trial.
Whilst the result is a relief for the defendants, it carries clear negative ramifications for both the taxpayer and the civil liberties of the activists involved, who have had their lawful right to protest curtailed by bail conditions and vague charges for the better part of a year. This deliberate use of bail conditions and the upholding of trial dates until the very last minute is becoming a regular tactic by the CPS to discourage activists from peaceful protest and has been seen in many cases related to HS2 ltd.
Teresa Norton, one of the defendants said: “7 of us turned up at St Albans Court on Monday 23rd to face the new charge of hiding tools. By noon the judge agreed with the defence that there was not enough time given to prepare, so the case was dismissed. Although we are pleased the case was dismissed we are angry that the prosecution decided to continue, especially as the September trial for the final group had been cancelled, as had others previously. Disorganised and in disarray, HS2 are a disgrace.”