Seven people who lived in a 100 ft network of tunnels under Euston Square Gardens for 31 days to stop HS2 have had all charges dismissed in a real-life courtroom drama hailed as a “victory for the right to protest” by supporters including TV presenter Chris Packham.
The victorious defendants were part of a group of nine people, aged 16-48, who occupied the tunnels between 27th January and 27th February 2021. They dug the tunnels to protect Euston Square Gardens, one of London’s most visited green spaces, from destruction by HS2, who wanted to build a temporary taxi rank and then, allegedly, high rise offices.
In scenes reminiscent of TV’s Rumpole, the trial, scheduled to last all week, was cut short as the prosecution case collapsed. District Judge Susan Williams dismissed 7 charges of Aggravated Trespass and one of Criminal Damage declaring there was “no case to answer.”
Referring to the moment, at 4.15am, on 27th January, when 100s of bailiffs stormed the park and Buckingham Pallets community centre built by volunteers working in the park, Judge Williams said, “There is no evidence of any constructor or construction taking place on the land at that time.”
The judge added that public money should not have been used to bring this case to court.
The victorious tunnellers include Blue Sandford (18), who wrote her first book Challenge Everything when she was just 17, scientist Dr. Larch Maxey (49) and gardener Daniel Hooper (48), also known as Swampy, Britain’s most celebrated protestor.
Dr Larch Maxey, who lived in the tunnel for 27 days, said, “Our victory in court is a victory for the right to protest. But what really matters is victory in the fight for our collective survival.”
He continued: “The science is terrifying, As Professor Sir David King and Chatham House report, we have 3-4 years to slash emissions or we’ll lock-in climate breakdown, with multiple breadbasket failures and societal collapse by 2040. If we fail to act immediately very few Brits will live out our natural lives, instead we’ll die amid unimaginable horror and suffering.”
Independent commentators and the defendants agree this was a political trial, with Dan Hooper suggesting: “We shouldn’t have been in court in the first place, because HS2 shouldn’t be happening. Our plan is to stop HS2. Aggravated trespass charges were completely the wrong ones to level against us.”
Simon Natas, of ITN Solicitors, who represented the protesters, welcomed the judge’s decision.
“The protesters always maintained they never committed the offence of aggravated trespass. They have now been vindicated. We are extremely pleased,” he said.
Blue Sandford said: “In court we heard alarming talk of tunnel collapse, but until its cancelled, HS2 will accelerate societal collapse. It will emit 14 Million Tons of CO2, according to DoT figures, from concrete alone. They refuse to even tell us the carbon emissions that HS2’s soil disturbance will cause!
“HS2 will never be Carbon Neutral and DoT figures show just 1% of passengers would have flown, and just 4% would have driven, so HS2’s talk of a “modal shift” from planes and cars to HS2 is utter greenwash! Most working people will not even be able to afford a £250 HS2 ticket.”
HS2 has also been rocked by a series of recent allegations of deception and corruption, including hiding from Parliament the knowledge that the project is once again well over budget and a decade behind schedule.
Dr Larch Maxey – 07726195412
Swan – 07459737446
Verel – 07500681680
Adam – 07447370581
The Chatham House Report (14.9.21):
London-Manchester Anytime tickets have been estimated at from £180 to £240 at 2020 prices