The UK’s top criminal court has today overturned the convictions of 29 climate change activists who blockaded a train delivering coal to Drax power station in 2008. The convictions were quashed after it was revealed that evidence gathered by undercover police officer Mark Kennedy had been withheld from the original trial.
We applaud the success of the Drax blockaders, and welcome the fact that they have explicitly made a link between the cover-up of their own case and the wider scandal of unaccountable undercover policing. Here is an extract from their press release :
“The failure to disclose material related to undercover officers to the courts appears endemic. Despite this and other recent revelations about the tactics of undercover police – their use of sexual relationships, their theft of the identities of dead children, their attempts to smear those seeking justice for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence – this secret police force remains unaccountable….the police cannot be trusted to investigate themselves. We need an independent public inquiry to get to the bottom of what has been going on”
In today’s judgement, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas criticised police secrecy :
“When a court is asked to overturn convictions in a case of potential police misconduct, it is not satisfactory that the police should decide which sections of documents to redact and which to make public. That should be a decision for the courts not the police”.
This wider issue of police cover-ups is very relevant to the women who are fighting this case, as they face a major court hearing this spring – postponed since November. We thank the Drax blockaders for their solidarity today – an encouragement to the women as they prepare for their own court battle against police secrecy.