Some victories for Stop HS2

IssueDecember 2021 - January 2022
News by David Polden

Along with some fine acquittals, the campaign to stop the carbon-intensive HS2 high-speed railway line chalked up a major victory on 18 November.

The government announced that most of the eastern section of the project would now not go ahead after all. Instead of running from Birmingham all the way up to Leeds, the eastern arm will only stretch 40 miles to East Midlands Parkway station, south of Nottingham.

A spokesperson for Stop HS2, Joe Rukin, said: ‘The cancellation of the Eastern leg of HS2 is vindication of everything we’ve been saying for a decade: that you can deliver more benefits to more people more quickly for less money without the massive environmental impact [of building a new railway line] by upgrading existing infrastructure, reopening old lines and providing sustainable local transport.’

On the acquittals front, nine anti-HS2 tunnellers in Euston Square, London, were found not guilty of aggravated trespass by Highbury magistrates court on 6 October. (Four tree-climbing colleagues were not so lucky later in the month.)

Separately, an anti-HS2 tree-climber in Buckinghamshire who had previously been convicted of an offence under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 was cleared on appeal by the high court in London on 16 November.

No (legal) work going on

The nine tunnellers had built a 100-foot tunnel under Euston Square Gardens, next to Euston train station in Central London. They were planning to obstruct work turning the park into a temporary taxi rank as part of the construction of HS2.

When they appeared before Highbury magistrates (after their eviction in February), the district judge dismissed the charge of aggravated trespass.

The prosecution had failed to show that HS2 was carrying out any construction work on the site during the life of the protest camp. Therefore, no one had been obstructed in any lawful activity by the tunnelling. Therefore no ‘aggravated’ trespass.

The four tree-climbers, on the other hand, were convicted of aggravated trespass on the grounds that they were obstructing the bailiffs trying to evict them. At least one defendant, Maria Gallastegui, is appealing.

The Buckinghamshire tree-climber, Sebastian Roblyn, was cleared on appeal of interfering with the lawful work of a tree-feller because he provided evidence that felling the tree was illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the Conservation of Habitats and European Species Regulations (2017).

The prosecution ‘had failed to establish that the activity was lawful’, according to the high court.