Drax 29 walk free

IssueMarch 2009
News by Cedric Knight

The Drax 29, who in June had obstructed a train carrying 1,000 tonnes of coal to be burnt at Europe’s largest coal-fired power station, were sentenced on 4 September. Five activists who had previous convictions were given 60 hours’ community service each, and three were ordered to pay £1,000 in court costs. However, the remainder were all given conditional discharges.

Beth Stratford said she was “really relieved” at the verdict, “but Drax costs £3m [in damage to environment and health] every day according to the government’s own figures. If the same standards applied, they’d be doing several lifetimes of community service.”

At the trial, the judge initially ruled inadmissible much of the defence case, including expert witnesses such as professor James Hansen, who had given evidence in the trial that led to the acquittal of the Kingsnorth Six (see PN 2502). Hansen has said: “Civil resistance is not an easy path, but given abdication of responsibility by the government, it is an essential path.” The activists discharged their lawyers and defended themselves.

Judge Spencer later allowed more time for the jury to hear about arctic melt and the argument that offloading the coal prevented a greater crime.

In his summing up, defendant Jonathan Stevenson said: “If those facts move you, that’s because they are moving, and they are what moved us to do what we did.”

The prosecution claimed coal deliveries were stopped for a day and a half, and did not contest the defence case that Drax causes 180 deaths a year through carbon emissions.