Kingsnorth Protest: Activists To Use Climate Change as Defense for £30,000 Tower Damage

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Kingsnorth Protest: Activists To Use Climate Change as Defense for £30,000 Tower Damage

· Stunt was attempt to stop loss of lives, accused to say

by
John Vidal

A Greenpeace activist abseils down the Kingsnorth power station in October 2007. (Photograph Will Rose/Greenpeace)

Greenpeace climate change activists who scaled one of Britain's
tallest power station chimneys, causing £30,000 damage, were accused in
court yesterday of crossing the line of acceptable protest.

Five
activists, with food and water to stay four days, climbed the 200-metre
chimney at Kingsnorth coal-fired power station near Hoo, Kent, last
October. They had planned to daub "Gordon, bin it" on the outside of
the chimney, but only got as far as painting the name "Gordon" before
they came down after 30 hours, a jury at Maidstone crown court heard
yesterday.

Huw Williams, 41, from Nottingham; Ben Stewart, 34,
from Lyminge, Kent; Kevin Drake, 44, from Westbury, Wiltshire; Will
Rose, 29, from London; and Emily Hall, 34, from New Zealand are all
charged with criminal damage to the chimney. Tim Hewke, 48, from
Ulcombe, Kent, who the prosecution says helped organise the protest
from the ground, is also charged with criminal damage. None of them
deny causing the damage and they also accept the estimated costs of
repairing the damage.

The legality of causing the damage in the
first place would be the central issue of the case, said John Price,
prosecuting. "These defendants maintain that they had a lawful excuse
for damaging the chimney for the protection of other property. Other
property, you will hear, in Kent and all around the world. Property
said to be at the risk of more serious damage threatened by climate
change which is caused by the substantial increase in greenhouse gases
of which it is said coal-burning power stations make a large
contribution."

But he said the acts committed by the protesters
were "not capable of being lawful". He told the jury of nine men and
three women that the case was not a prosecution of free speech or
legitimate political protest but a prosecution for crossing the line of
acceptable protest.

"There are things you can lawfully do in making a protest, but there's a line which has to be drawn," he said.

The
activists, who begin their defence today, are expected to argue that
they acted to prevent lives being lost and damage being done to
properties around the world by global warming. It will be the first
time that such a climate change defence has been used in a British
court.

The environment group is expected to call leading
international climate change academics, researchers and
environmentalists as witnesses.

Greenpeace was in a similar
situation in 1999 when Lord Melchett, its director at the time, along
with others destroyed a field of GM crops in Norfolk. They said in
court they were acting to prevent wider environmental damage. The not
guilty verdict sent a message to environmental activists that they
would not necessarily be punished under the law if they caused damage
to property.

The case, which is expected to run a further five
days, has extra significance because of public opposition to Kingsnorth
power station, and many people have pledged to disobey the law if a
coal-fired station is built. More than 2,500 people demonstrated
against it last month.

Gordon Brown is expected to give
approval to Kingsnorth in the next few months, making it the first new
coal-fired station for 30 years. The case continues.

 

Share This Article

More in: