Top prosecutor tells power station protesters to appeal
- 18 April 2011
- From the section UK
Director of Public Prosecutions Kier Starmer QC has told 20 people to appeal against convictions over planned protests at a power station.
His letter comes after revelations that the Ratcliffe-on-Soar protesters had been infiltrated by an undercover police officer.
Mr Starmer said the CPS had reviewed the 2010 convictions amid allegations about former Pc Mark Kennedy.
The Court of Appeal should look at the cases as soon as possible, he added.
The 20 protesters contacted by Mr Starmer were convicted in December 2010 of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at the Nottinghamshire power station the year before.
They were given a mixture of community service orders and conditional discharges - and the judge accepted they were "decent men and women" motivated by their concern for the environment.
But a month later, the prosecution of a further six people collapsed when the CPS said that "previously unavailable material" had emerged that undermined the case.
The decision to drop the case came amid reports that Pc Mark Kennedy, who had infiltrated environmental groups, had changed sides and had offered to help the defence.
Following the prosecution's collapse, Mr Starmer asked senior barrister Clare Montgomery QC to review the 20 existing convictions.
In a statement on Monday, Mr Starmer said: "I instructed Ms Montgomery to review the safety of the convictions of the individuals convicted at Nottingham Crown Court on 14 December 2010 in light of non-disclosure of material relating to the activities of an undercover police officer.
"Ms Montgomery has now completed her review and, having carefully considered her conclusions, I believe that the safety of the convictions should be considered by the Court of Appeal as soon as possible.
"The prosecution cannot lodge an appeal to the Court of Appeal save in very limited circumstances, which are not met here, and in my letter I have invited the defence to lodge an appeal and to include the issue of non-disclosure of material relating to the activities of an undercover police officer in any grounds of appeal.
"I have also indicated that the CPS will assist in any steps necessary to expedite the appeal."
Two separate reviews into the affair are continuing. The first, by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is looking at Nottinghamshire Police's alleged failure to disclose all relevant material to the prosecution in the collapsed second case.
The second, by the Inspectorate of Constabulary, is looking at wider questions of how undercover officers operate.
The BBC's East Midlands Today programme is reporting that Nottinghamshire Police chiefs are "furious" that their force is getting the blame.
But Mr Starmer said that despite ongoing reviews, the only proper course of action would be to invite appeals now.
He said: "It would be wrong if, having reached this conclusion [about the convictions], I waited until the reviews were completed before contacting the defence about a possible appeal."
Mike Schwarz, solicitor for the 20 protesters, welcomed the DPP's statement - but said that while an appeal may clear the group, it may fail to answer important questions.
He said: "It is the first official recognition that an undercover police officer played a role in this case and that there was non-disclosure of relevant evidence to the defence during the trial process.
"However, it has taken two years to get this far and this has only come about as a result of the persistence of climate campaigners.
"The prosecution have not provided us with any of the relevant material and nor have they said that they will do so."
Mark Kennedy, who was known to protesters as Mark Stone, was reported to have initially gone into hiding after his real name and role were revealed.
The 20 convicted in December were among 114 people arrested in April 2009 when some 200 police officers mounted a £300,000 operation against environmental protesters.
The prosecution, which cost a further £400,000, only came after the evidence of conspiracy was reviewed by a senior lawyer because it was so complex.