Judge Crabtree warned us that while judgements in magistrates’ courts usually take between 45 minutes and two hours, this one was likely to take considerably longer. He was right; his judgement took three-and-a-half hours. But it was a judgement worth waiting for.
Six activists were being prosecuted for ‘aggravated trespass’ for occupying trees along the route of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road in January 2013 (see PN 2554, 2566).
The first two hours or so of the hearing in Brighton magistrates’ court were spent shooting down almost every defence argument. Then, the judge started going through the case against each defendant individually. The judge decided that Tom, Alistair, Val and Kim were not trying to obstruct work, but to exercise their rights to protest and to raise awareness.
Adrian and Maria were not in the same category, the judge said, but he could not be sure that remaining in a tree (as opposed to climbing into it after the county council took possession of the land) amounted to a ‘distinct and overt act’ of aggravated trespass.
And that was that. Six defendants, six acquittals. All were awarded costs (which cover travel expenses but not loss of earnings for the 13 days that they had each spent in court), and they trooped outside for TV interviews.