Climate defence is not an offence

IssueDecember 2010 - January 2011
News by Jonathan Stevenson

As PN goes to press, 20 climate activists are beginning the most significant trial for climate activism in the UK since the acquittal of the Kingsnorth Six in 2008. Their crime? Planning to shut down the UK’s third-largest source of emissions – E.ON’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired station near Nottingham.

They were among 114 activists arrested in a night-time police raid on the eve of the action in April last year. (Another six, who hadn’t decided to participate at the time of arrest, face a separate trial in the new year.)

The 20 coal campaigners are being charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass. They don’t deny the demonstration planned to shut down Ratcliffe on Soar, but claim it was necessary in order to prevent loss of life, as a result of the carbon emissions from the plant.

It is the first time this “necessity defence” will have been put before a jury since the trial of the Kingsnorth Six, which saw Greenpeace activists acquitted of criminal damage after they scaled the chimney of Kingsnorth coal-powered station in Kent.

An earlier trial of Drax coal train occupiers saw the judge rule the defence “illegal”, and climate change witnesses banned from court. (See PN 2513.)

The Ratcliffe trial started on 22 November at Nottingham Crown Court and is expected to last three weeks. Their support team will be blogging every day from the court. They have also produced an “instant info-board”, for publicising the case in your community, which can be downloaded from their website.

Meanwhile 17 climate activists face magistrate court trials for chaining themselves to a plane at Manchester airport back in May. They were draped in banners saying “Stop All Airport Expansion” and “Our Climate, Not Your Business”. The “world freight terminal” at Manchester airport aspires to be ‘the Heathrow of the North’. There are two trials, both at Trafford magistrates court, one starting on 9 December, one on 21 February.

No new coal

A network of campaigns against open-cast coal has been building up around the country as British companies look for domestic fuel to fire the UK’s 14 coal power stations. The Huntington Lane protest camp has been on the site of UK Coal’s proposed open-cast coal mine near the Wrekin in Shropshire since the start of the year.

At the time of going to press they were calling for support for preparations to resist eviction. An action weekend was held in mid-November and a day of action is planned for December, involving a mass trespass on the site of the mine.

In Scotland, Coal Action Scotland have established an action camp in Happendon Wood in the Douglas Valley, south-east of Glasgow (see PN 2526).

On 10 November, the Ravenstruther coal rail terminal was brought to a standstill by anti-coal protesters.

Campaigners in Scotland are also celebrating Midlothian Council’s recent decision to turn down Scottish Coal’s application for a two million tonne open-cast coal mine at Cousland near Edinburgh.

Topics: Climate change